New Zealand striking sensation Alexi “Phet” Serepisos (40-13) has come to ONE Championship to compete against the best, and he will get that chance when he takes on Mongkolpetch Petchyindee Academy at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY.
The WMC I1 World Champion will compete on the biggest platform of his career to date when he stars in the co-main event at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia on Saturday, 19 January, but nothing can faze him.
He may be up against a Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Champion for his maiden ONE Super Series assignment, but that is exactly the kind of test he is looking for.
Serepisos has had to work relentlessly to reach his position on the global stage for martial arts, but all of his efforts mean the fruits of his labor now taste much sweeter.
This is how the Kiwi hero made it from “black sheep” to the pinnacle of his sport.
Living As A Black Sheep
Serepisos was born in Hamilton, New Zealand into a large Greek immigrant family. “Phet’s” father emigrated from Europe 50 years ago, and his mother was born in the nation’s capital after her parents made the trip during the Second World War.
Growing up, Serepisos spent a lot of time with his grandparents.
“My mum and dad separated young when I was young — they had their own individual troubles — and as a result, I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandparents,” he explains.
“My mum was busy working, being a single mum, so I was very close with them.”
“Phet” always felt like the “black sheep” of his family, partly because he would not just toe the line. He was disengaged and segregated, and this also led to problems in school.
Academically he was, at best, disinterested, and was expelled for truancy at the age of 13.
“I always hated school,” he offers. “When I didn’t turn up for 20 days straight, they kicked me out.”
Around the same time, the Hamilton native left a brief spell under his father’s roof to go it alone. Still in his early teens, he entered the world of work so he could pay his way – until child services realized he was no longer in education.
Their intervention set the stage for a person to enter his life who would change his outlook for the better.
“I couldn’t get back in – no schools would accept me – so I had to go to an alternative education center. Luckily, it was there that I met my lovely wife, Olivia.”
An Accidental Encounter With Muay Thai
At the tender age of 15, his then-girlfriend fell pregnant, and Serepisos left school again to start earning a living. At this point, he took an interest in martial arts.
“I started when my wife was pregnant, and I was 15,” the Muay Thai stylist says.
“I don’t know how I got away with it, to be honest. It was quite selfish at the time, but my wife has been with me through the whole journey.”
It was mixed martial arts that first piqued his interest. He walked through the doors of JAI Thai Boxing to try his hand at caged combat, but its program had been discontinued.
“I thought I’d just do the Thai boxing class anyway and see what came of it,” says “Phet.”
“I went and did the training and loved it, and just never stopped. I had a lot going on in life, but I made it to the gym as much as I could and competed.”
By now, aged 16, “Phet” had his first son and worked two jobs to pay the bills. He was desperate to compete, so he made it into the gym three times a week, and did his morning runs.
He was a natural in the ring, and his innate speed and timing gave him an advantage that helped him succeed at a low level, but he knew he had to take the sport more seriously if he wanted to progress.
Striking The Balance
By the age of 18, Serepisos and his wife had their second child, but his dreams inside the ring were growing just like his family.
He loved stepping through the ropes to perform, but his first priority was always looking after those who depended on him.
“From the age of 16, I was supporting a family,” says the New Zealander.
“My life has never really been by the books, but I’m very much of the opinion that if you want to do something, you will make it work. I had bills to pay, so I made sure they got paid.”
“Phet” progressed from car grooming jobs to better-paid office roles and kept up his training while he spent as much time with his family as he could.
“I just worked off a minimal amount of sleep,” he says.
“Get up at 4:30am, train for an hour-and-a-half, work for eight hours, do after-school activities with the kids, get home again, do what I need to do around the house, then go to bed around 11pm. It just involved very little downtime.
“I’ve had to grind all my life, and I’m a hard worker, so when the work needs to be done, in the gym or to earn money, you can’t make excuses.”
Serepisos has had to fend for himself since the age of 14 and provide for a family from the age of 16, on top of nurturing a career as a world-class martial artist. While others slept, he trained, and it paid off.
Starting A New Chapter
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Putting in work at @thelionpit while down in Wellington. Cool atmosphere down here, enjoying some light sounds with @rianrees #Repost @thelionpit Great to have @teamphet at the pit for a few days. His next stop is in a few weeks with @onechampionship. #teamphet #roartalent #boxing #kickboxing #mma #muaythai #wellington #newzealand Boxing | Kickboxing | MMA | thelionpit.com
It is amazing that 24-year-old made it to the elite level of the striking world, despite his circumstances. His passion and dedication allowed him to excel in a situation where others would have given up.
After five years at JAI Thai Boxing, he won his first World Title, but the family had to relocate due to the sky-high prices of the local housing market.
They moved to Hamilton, where his wife grew up. There, Serepisos found a small group of dedicated athletes that helped to propel his career to new heights.
“When I came to Hamilton I started training with the team House of Pain up here, which is a really small group of fighters,” he explains.
“More often than not, it’s five of us, a trainer, and three or four of us will be World Champions, so it’s really high level and a real privilege to be part of it.”
Inking a deal with the world’s largest martial arts organization came at the perfect time for “Phet,” and with his hectic lifestyle, being offered the best opposition anywhere in the world at regular intervals will give him the best opportunity to fulfill his martial arts goals.
“Signing with ONE is perfect. It suits my lifestyle – I can spend more time with my family while still getting good, high-quality fights,” he notes.
Joining The Home Of Martial Arts, which is attracting the best athletes to ONE Super Series, ticks every box for Serepisos. He gets to fly to Jakarta to compete in front of thousands of fans in the arena, as well as millions watching around the world.
He also has the opportunity to test his skills against one of Thailand’s hottest Muay Thai talents, which is set to bring out the best in him.
“I take the training and the fighting seriously. It gives me something to work for, gives me goals, and gives me experiences money can’t buy – that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
“Having a family young doesn’t leave a lot of room for travel. I get to pop over to cool countries, do cool stuff, and get paid to do something I love.”