Former Eternal Middleweight Champion Isi Fitikefu has signed with ONE Championship.
“Doxz” will take on tough Kyrgyz grappler Ruslan Emilbek Uulu on debut on November 19 as part of the lead card of ONE Fight Night 4: Abbasov vs. Lee, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
But making the walk for the first time in a major promotion will be a far cry from the shy kid that grew up in South Auckland, New Zealand.
“Growing up in New Zealand, I looked up to boxers like David Tua and Mark Hunt. I didn’t know them, but they grew up in the same neighbourhood, so I always looked up to guys like that. Since I was a kid I always wanted to do it but I was too shy. I was a shy kid, too shy to go out and join a boxing gym or karate gym. But as I got older I grew a bit of confidence and started training,” Fitikefu recalls.
“I started with jiu-jitsu, then I got into boxing, kickboxing and eventually mixed martial arts.”
Now calling Sydney, Australia home and training alongside some of the biggest names in Australian MMA, Fitikefu turned pro at 22 has amassed a 7-0 record in MMA with five wins coming inside the distance. His ability to finish fights early has meant that opponents aren’t exactly queuing up to fight him on the local scene.
The 30-year-old says that he is not concerned about who stands across from him. So when Ruslan Emilbek Uulu was offered, he was simply happy to finally have a dance partner.
“To me, it didn’t matter who the opponent was. My goal was just get me to the fight, I’ll do the rest. Obviously he’s a tough dude and from what I’ve seen he looks like he’s a strong grappler with some decent striking. But the gameplan doesn’t change from this person to another person, the mindset and game plan is always the same – just get me to the fight, let me put my hands on them and hit them. Then let the rest take care of itself.”
In Emilbek Uulu, The Gracie Smeaton Grange representative is faced with a veteran of four fights in the ONE Circle. “Snow Leopard” is fresh off a submission win over Ben Wilhelm only a matter of weeks ago.
In typical fashion, Fitikefu is respectful of his opponents skills but knows that he packs enough firepower to make it all a moot point.
“He looks like he’s got good grappling and decent striking, so I’ll say he’s a pretty well rounded guy. But I’ve just got to make sure I don’t let him be first, I have to be first myself. I can’t let him put his gameplan in, if I hit him first then I can change everything.”
“I don’t know what his weaknesses are, you don’t know until you get in there. But from what I see, he relies a lot on his grappling pretty much. I’d say he doesn’t have a good chin, which makes it better for me to see if I can do something with it.”
Fitikefu has more than just world titles on his mind when he walks to the Circle. The proud father of three also aims to set lead by example for his kids through hard work and getting results.
“I don’t really care if they [my kids] watch or not, I just want to be a good example. Myself I’ve had a hard upbringing, come from nothing, but it doesn’t matter where you come from. As long as you work hard and put your head down, you can be whatever you want. I just want to teach that to my kids.”
Proudly of Tongan heritage, Fitikefu knows that he has an opportunity to set an example in his homeland too.
He hopes that by achieving his own personal goals, perhaps he can pave the way for other young Tongans to pursue their sporting dreams.
“I want to cement legacy, be the best fighter. Especially for my country, Tonga. We’re known for Rugby League, but no really known too much for combat sports. We’re a small country but proud, if I can be one of the best fighters of my generation I’ll be happy. World champion or best fighter of my generation.”
“In Tonga, there’s potential for a lot of great athletes there, but not many role models. If they can see that one Tongan kid can do it, then someone will follow. I just want to lead by example.”
For now, Fitikefu must make good on his ONE debut on November 19, and he plans to do it in style.
“The more you watch me, the more you’re going to see. Just a lot of big punches, a lot of good grappling. Expect a good show.”
“My mindset is to put this guy out in one, two or three it doesn’t matter. He’s not going all three.”
Viewers in Australia can catch all the action from ONE Fight Night 4: Abbasov vs. Lee at watch.onefc.com