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Reinier De Ridder Finds Passion Running His Gym Ahead Of ONE 166 Main Event

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Reinier De Ridder is preparing for his latest ONE Middleweight MMA World Title defense when ONE Championship arrives in Qatar for ONE 166. The March 1st title tilt will also be a chance for him to redeem himself against ONE Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight MMA World Champion Anatoly Malykhin. The preparation all begins back home at his gym — Combat Brothers.

De Ridder operates the gym alongside his longtime friend and coach, Harun Ozkan. The experiences on the mat led them to open their own gym. As De Ridder has succeeded in the sport, the gym has grown.

ONE Champ De Ridder Talks Gym Ahead of ONE 166 Title Tilt

“Me and my brother, my buddy, we’ve been doing this together for so long. We’ve always shared blood, sweat, and tears on the mats. He helps me through all of my fights, so that’s where it started,” De Ridder told ONE.

The gym welcomes all comers through their doors. It is more than just a spot for aspiring athletes. “The Dutch Knight” enjoys the times when he is able to be a teacher and impart his passion to those with day-to-day jobs beginning their own martial arts journeys.

“I don’t get the chance to teach every day because it’s a lot of work. But I teach a couple days a week, and it’s always very fulfilling to see that normal people, not people who make a living out of this, who devote their life to fighting, but normal people who are lawyers, or they have a normal job, a normal life. They come in and they try to kill each other on the mats. It’s all very cool to me. It gives me a lot of energy to see them when they go at it,” the ONE Middleweight MMA World Champion said.

The adage says if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life. For De Ridder, that is holding true. By surrounding himself with friends and family, the reigning middleweight king enjoys the fruits of his labor without viewing it strictly as a business.

“It wasn’t ever too challenging, to be honest. All the people who teach for us are good friends who’ve been with us for years prior. Me and my buddy will always figure it out together. It’s never been about money. It’s just a thing we love. We would be on the mats every day, and we would host the gym like this every day even if we wouldn’t be making money there. It’s just something we love,” the Dutchman stated.

For the athletes seeking to try their hand at competing, De Ridder is there for them no matter where they are in their journey. Those already deep into their careers are beginning to make the switch, and homegrown talents are starting to hit the regional scene as well. It is just the start of Europe’s next elite gym.

“So all the good guys, once they reach a certain level, they hit us up and they come to us. So we have a lot of already high-level pros who will join us at a later stage in their career. But we have a couple of guys coming up now fighting their first few pro fights, as well, who really started with us. And they are doing pretty good, as well. So yeah, it’s cool,” De Ridder commented.

But for his own training, it also has its benefits. Combat Brothers is becoming a popular choice for athletes who are reaching the next level in their careers, giving De Ridder more high-level training partners. It has allowed him to stay at home instead of traveling to a different camp ahead of ONE 166 on March 1.

“It’s cool that we have these times that we train with the pros. Everybody’s welcome. So whatever gym you represent, doesn’t matter. Just come and train with us. And it’s cool that I can have my training with world-class guys in my backyard, so I don’t have to travel. But I can get all the good guys coming to me, which is very nice,” De Ridder said.

ONE 166 airs live on Friday, March 1st. The event will be held at the Lusail Sports Arena in Qatar. The action begins at 7:30 a.m. EST/4:30 a.m. PST.

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Jeremy Brand is an experienced MMA writer and columnist. He is the founder of, and has represented the company with media credentials at many mixed martial arts fights. Jeremy is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, training in BC, Canada.

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