Growing up in a big family can be tough, and a big family can stretch the dollar quite thin. However, a strong family bond and driven parents can always make the best out of the toughest situations.
American Muay Thai champion Eddie Abasolo grew up in a big family, and he now has a decent sized clan of his own. His parents raised him right, and he is now doing the same for his kids. He grew up in Vallejo, Calif., and, while life may not have been glamorous, it was a good one, nonetheless.
“It was freaking awesome,” Abasolo told Combat Press. “I have two brothers and two sisters. I’m the oldest. I grew up playing sports – mostly baseball and basketball – and my dad was my coach. He really gave me tough love. He taught me about discipline and stuff like that. Me and my family were a little bit on the on the low end of the middle class, I would say. We weren’t poor, but, you know, there was a time in our life where we were on the street. But that was short-lived, and we learned a lot from it.
“It’s funny, man, because, for me, as a kid, you don’t know what to expect growing up. So, a lot of things that happened were just normal to me. Whenever we were down and out, I was just like, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing now? Alright, cool.’ My parents are survivors, and, no matter what, we just made it happen. They always made sure that we were fed. They always made sure we had clothes on our back and a roof over our heads, even when we were on the street. They would make ends meet to get hotels and stuff like that, and I had a blast – especially with a lot of siblings. We were just crazy – you know how siblings are, always fighting with each other – but we always had each other’s backs. No one else could mess with us. I was very active as a kid.”
Abasolo’s and his siblings are all about two-to-three years apart in age. Their father is a black belt in Kajukenbo, which is a Hawaiian mixed martial art, combining elements of Taekwondo, Judo, Jujitsu, Kenpo karate and boxing. His dad was a well-known competitor, who got his kids training at a young age.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to live up to the Abasolo name,” said the multiple-time Muay Thai champion. “Whenever anything seemed like it would be an obstacle, he would just tell me ‘Man, we’re Abasolos. You’re an Abasolo. We make it happen.’ I had a lot to live up to, and I was up for the challenge. It didn’t seem like a burden or pressure or anything.”
Abasolo wrestled and played other sports at Hogan High School, and upon graduating, he tried out boxing. It wasn’t until a few years later that he found Muay Thai around 2008.
“I was at 24 Hour Fitness one day, and I saw a buddy of mine,” Abasolo said. “We were just catching up, and he told me that he’s been training and been doing Muay Thai. I started to find out what Muay Thai was, because my wife – girlfriend at the time – me, her and her brother lived together, and he was into Muay Thai. He would watch Muay Thai fights, and he would practice on a heavy bag in his room. It was all self-taught. He wasn’t training out of school or anything. I used to sit there and watch it with him and talk about it and stuff.
“I came home and told him my buddy said there’s a Muay Thai gym around here in Vallejo, so we went to go check it out. I wasn’t super committed, because I didn’t know from the first day that this is what I want to do with my life. It took about two years to actually get serious. There were periods of time during that two years where there were gaps in between training – months, you know? I just didn’t know how serious it was. Next thing you know, the fire just started to build. By seeing the people who were actually fighting at the gym and getting to work with them, I wanted to be as good, if not better.”
Abasolo first trained on a small mat at Soaring Eagles Taekwondo in Vallejo, through what was called Warriors Muay Thai. However, he started training under John Hurney, another former Muay Thai champion, and the COVID-19 lockdowns in California ultimately led to where he is today, as a co-owner of Resistance Fitness Center in Pleasanton. He co-owns the gym with partners Hurney and Tim Figgens.
“When they had the restrictions, John would put together a group of people – anyone who was willing to go out to the park and do social distancing training,” Abasolo explained. “Everyone would just get together. It started with about eight to 10 people. In a short period of time, the biggest number that we had out there was probably 60 to 65 people. Tim brought the idea to John and said, ‘You do so well bringing so many people together, and you guys really know your stuff. What do you think about opening up a gym?’ And John said, ‘Okay, but I’m not going to do it without Eddie.’ We all just put our heads together and went to work and made it happen. So, the pandemic was actually a blessing to us, if anything.”
As anyone in the fight business understands, kickboxing and Muay Thai records can be hard to confirm. There are not as many accurate databases as there are for other combat sports, such as MMA or boxing, but Abasolo thinks his striking record is around 16-3. In Nov. 2022, he made his debut with ONE Championship, and it was a unique experience, as the event was in Singapore, and his only other international fights were in the U.K. or Mexico.
“It was a little bit of culture shock,” said Abasolo. “Not a big culture shock, but a little bit, in a refreshing way, because after the fight, I got to sit there and enjoy the fights, since I was the very first fight. The people and the crowd were so into it. They were so into it.
“You know, in the moments where the two fighters are standing in front of each other, and they’re both – I don’t want to say hesitant – but it’s it seems like they’re not doing anything – the normal cases where people would start booing, but, out there, people were quiet. They were locked in, and it was almost as if they could hear the conversation that’s happening in the ring with the body language. As soon as someone would do something, even if it’s minimal, the crowd would go wild. They really appreciate the art out there, which was real dope to see. And the fans in Asia just made me feel like a rockstar being out there.”
Abasolo dropped his promotional debut to England’s Liam Nolan by unanimous decision in a Muay Thai war. While it was not the outcome he was looking for, he is happy to be competing with the top combat sports promotion in the world.
“It’s weird because it’s like simultaneously surreal, and at the same time, it’s not,” Abasolo elaborated. “I knew it. It’s weird when you have a certain faith in something, and then it comes true. You work hard towards it, and it comes true. You start to see the path that you knew there was something, but you didn’t really.
“I mean, the fact that I’m fighting on ONE Championship – not one of, but, in my opinion, the biggest stage in the world for fighting – it’s just surreal. There’s no cans in ONE Championship. Everyone’s a monster, and to be amongst it – knowing that I’m one of them – it just makes me work that much harder. I’m just excited to see where this goes. The faith that I have just keeps presenting itself and showing me that I’m on the right path and I’m doing the right thing with my life. All the sacrifices and things that I’m chasing, it’s not going to wait, you know? So for me, I’m living the dream really.”
Abasolo has not always been a career fighter. However, he has run the gamut in the job field, working at places like Costco, Walmart, and Kelly-Moore Paint, in addition to a variety of other side contracting jobs. However, Muay Thai is truly his professional calling.
“It may sound cliché, but I do this for fulfillment,” Abasolo said. “It’s funny because, working – there’s nothing wrong with working. If I have to – I have a family – I’ll get a job at McDonald’s to support them. I’ll do whatever I have to do. But, I’ve never really been able to satisfy my bosses, you know? Like, every time it was evaluation time, it seemed like you could never get the highest evaluation. There was always, ‘Yeah, you’re a great worker. You come in on time. You work. But, there’s room for improvement.’
“I just felt like they were always stringing me along. It really just felt like it wasn’t for me, and I wanted to do something with my life that I feel like I have a bit of control over. I feel like I didn’t really have control – just working the nine-to-five as a regular employee. It always felt like there was someone higher. Even in the management job, where I was the head guy, there was always someone higher.
“Muay Thai was kind of like my escape, and one thing led to another. Even in moments where you’re doing what you love, it’s still repetitive, and things can get kind of dull from time to time, kind of like relationships. When you first get into them, there’s a honeymoon stage, and then, over time, it just kind of feels dull. But I’d rather be doing this more than anything else. This is healthy physically. It’s healthy mentally. Without this, I could probably go out and make a lot of money, but I know for sure that, mentally, I wouldn’t be good for my wife or my kids. With this, I’m able to be the best I can be for them.”
On Friday night, Abasolo will back in action when he faces Denmark’s Niclas Larsen at ONE Fight Night 8, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Larsen is a longtime GLORY Kickboxing veteran, and has fought twice in ONE, losing back-to-back Muay Thai battles, including to current featherweight champion Tawanchai PK.Saenchai. The Dane will certainly be no pushover.
“I know he’s a WBC champ,” said Abasolo. “I know he’s been successful in GLORY. I know that he’s training his butt off right now, and that this fight is going to be fireworks for sure. We both have something to prove in this organization. I can feel that he’s just as eager as I am.”
Abasolo will certainly be bringing his all in his sophomore ONE appearance, but unlike his opponent, he has the next generation he is fighting for as well. He and his wife Bernadette, who he has been with for 20 years, have three children – one 13-year-old daughter and two sons, ages eight and four. No matter what happens on Friday night, he will never lose that focus. Being a dad is a huge driver for him.
“Man it’s great,” said Abasolo. “It keeps me humble, and it keeps me grounded. Plenty of times where, if I lose patience or feel rushed, or I just let the anxiety from adulting get the best of me, it’s just a great reminder – especially their ages. I got a teenager, I got a kid and I got a toddler, you know? The way they see the world is just different, and it reminds me that things aren’t so serious. Even though I’m on a mission whenever I’m in fight camp, I block everything out and it’s almost as if I don’t remember any of the two to three months where I look back on it, because I was just my head down and grinding. I come home, and it’s just like big weight off my shoulders. They jump in my arms. They tell me about their day. And, the conversations that we have take a huge weight off my shoulders. It’s a huge stress relief.”
Abasolo has lived through tough times and lived through great times. Where he is at today is his best life yet. He has a happy family, a great career, and he is fighting on a huge stage tomorrow night. The ONE Fight Night 8 lead card airs live and free on YouTube and the ONE Championship website starting at 7 p.m. ET. Abasolo and Larsen will serve as the third fight as both will be looking to stake their claim in a stacked division.