Chris “The African Warrior” Ngimbi (49-20) will have an unforgettable welcome to ONE Championship next weekend.
The Congolese-Dutch athlete will make his promotional debut against Muay Thai living legend Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex (198-71-4) in a ONE Super Series kickboxing bout at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 18 May.
Ngimbi is no stranger to elite-level opposition, as he has competed against the likes of Giorgio Petrosyan, Andy Souwer, and Artur Kyshenko. Now, he will compete on the biggest stage for martial arts, and a victory over Yodsanklai would give him a dramatic push towards his own ambitions in ONE.
Find out about the world-class kickboxer ahead of his eagerly anticipated clash in Singapore.
Looking For A Steady Life
Ngimbi was raised in his birthplace of Kinshasa, Congo, and had a carefree life.
Although the country has become known to the outside world for years of conflict, “The African Warrior” fondly remembers a happy childhood with friends and family.
“I had a good youth. It was only due to the circumstances that we had to flee the country,” the 33-year-old explains. “I played outside a lot with the other kids. I was just having lots of fun with my friends.”
However, the fun ended when political strife led to a civil war. To make matters worse, his father died during this time. Devastated, the family opted to relocate to Europe in search of a better life.
The family moved from country to country, and Ngimbi’s mother worked every hour she could to provide for him and his sister. Though life was tough, they looked after each other the best they could, until he suffered another great loss.
“I never really had a steady life. Everything was always a rush, always moving, from Congo to Belgium, Holland, [and all these] different places,” he explains. “In the 20 years I was alive, I think I had a steady life for maybe three years before it was all interrupted again due to my mother passing away.”
Finding A Passion
Before tragedy struck again, Ngimbi was fascinated by martial arts films as he grew up in Europe, especially movies featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. At the time, he felt a connection with “The Muscles From Brussels” because he was living in Belgium.
“The African Warrior” was interested in learning kickboxing, but he did not know how to get started. Instead, he played soccer. He excelled in that sport, garnering plenty of attention. He was tipped to do well, and potentially earn a high wage.
However, when he was 17, a friend suggested he tag along to a kickboxing class to release some pent-up energy. Ngimbi agreed, and soon, his life changed completely.
“I went to kickboxing for the first time, and I just immediately fell in love with the sport,” he says.
“At first, it was once a week, then three times a week. After a couple of months, I had my first bout. The feeling of winning was amazing.
“I was doing kickboxing and football together for a while. I really liked football. I just went with the one I liked the best. I made the choice with my heart. I wanted to do what I loved.”
The up-and-coming kickboxing superstar competed as much as possible. Initially, he hid his new endeavor from his mother due to her perception of martial arts. She believed it would create issues for a teenage Ngimbi. Instead, it gave him much-needed discipline and focus.
“I was like, ‘Man, if she finds out, she is going to kill me,’” he jokes.
“She thought it would make me more aggressive, but when she saw it helped me to be more relaxed and achieve more in life, she started to show some appreciation.”
Unfortunately, he never got to show his hard-working parent the fruits of his own labor, as she died before he became a world champion.
Stepping Into A Father Role
Following his mother’s death, Ngimbi experienced one of the most challenging times of his life. He was now the head of the family, and had two younger sisters to take care of.
“I had to become an adult from one day to the next,” he says.
Although he never focused on academia too much during his own childhood, Ngimbi now developed an interest in his education, and started studying for a degree.
“The African Warrior” was building his name for himself as a top kickboxer, and setting himself up for life after his competitive career was over to look after his sisters.
“I had to combine everything. I had to make sure that I was growing in life, but also that [my sisters] were growing with their goals, going to school, and everything else,” he explains. “They both finished school, so I am very happy with that. It was very tough, but my mum had mentally prepared me for everything.”
Instead of being overwhelmed by his responsibilities and juggling separate vocations, he thrived. Ngimbi’s sisters graduated and they were safe under his roof. He had sporting success, he finished his degree, and he provided a platform for all of them to prosper in the future.
All of that is chalked up to the work ethic he inherited from his mother.
Motivated By Success
After years of building his skill set, it was evident Ngimbi had the capabilities to reach the top of the striking world. When he was age 23, he opted to go full-time with kickboxing.
“It paid off,” he states. “I won many bouts and many titles.”
Ngimbi’s sole commitment to martial arts was a positive move, as he lived a lifestyle devoutly in pursuit of success in the ring. He became a two-time WKA Muay Thai World Champion, a two-time It’s Showtime World Champion, and most recently, the SUPERKOMBAT Middleweight Champion.
The Congo-born warrior believes a turning point in his career happened in November 2009, when he defeated Chahid Oulad via unanimous decision. That night, he was operating on an elite level, and it was in that moment where he felt like he could achieve anything.
“Defeating Chahid Houlad was confirmation for me that I belonged in there with the big guys,” Ngimbi says. “It was the point where I saw everybody was beatable. I went on a good win streak, and beat anybody in my path. It made me realize there was so much to obtain in my career.”
That is when Ngimbi decided to “go for the ride and see how far he could take it.” Not only has that led to all of his aforementioned accolades, but new challenges in ONE Super Series.
“The African Warrior” draws a tough first match in the promotion with Yodsanklai, but that has only encouraged him to push himself even harder.
“Signing with ONE has made me highly motivated again,” Ngimbi continues. “I am training harder now than I have for years, and only once I have gained success here will I be able to stop.”