Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen has never been afraid to throw himself into the deep end as he chases his goal of becoming a World Champion.
The Finland native’s quest for martial arts greatness has taken him across the world to Singapore, where the final stages of his training camp at Evolve will prepare him for his upcoming tilt with Akihiro “Superjap” Fujisawa at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY.
Before he walks into the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday, 12 July, Toivonen reveals how he took the first steps of his martial arts journey.
Toivonen grew up in Lahti, a small city in Finland with a rich sporting tradition.
Surrounded by a loving family and grandparents, he was a happy child. However, Toivonen had to overcome some early struggles in his childhood.
“I had an eye disease as a child. I had four surgeries, so I had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. It kind of changed everything because I didn’t have much contact with kids,” he says.
Despite his lack of opportunities to interact with his peers, it was hard to contain Toivonen’s active nature as a young boy.
His parents leaned Toivonen heavily on a variety of sports, hoping to find an outlet to channel his energy, but with limited success.
“We tried different sports, like a bit of ice hockey and soccer, but I just couldn’t enjoy it – I didn’t feel like I belonged there,” Toivonen explains.
It was only when he tried the Japanese discipline of taido that Toivonen felt he had found something that he was looking for.
“I believe every person has to find what they enjoy and what comes naturally to them. In my case, that was martial arts,” he says.
Heeding The Call Of Mixed Martial Arts
While he progressed deeper into taido, Toivonen craved for something more fluid and other martial arts disciplines began to pique his interest.
After he had suffered injuries competing in Taido, he began to explore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
“I always felt like they missed just a little bit of something [in taido],” he says.
“I wanted more, and I always felt that there was more combat in BJJ. It felt like the natural progression to me. It was an avenue of self-expression for me.”
With the support from family and the guidance from his coaches, a 17-year-old Toivonen flourished in competitive grappling competitions.
He became a two-time Finland National Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Champion and three-time IBJFF No-Gi European Champion, which gave him an incredible foundation for his next challenge.
Tasting Professional Success
“The Giant’s” accomplishments and formidable abilities prompted him to move toward a professional career in mixed martial arts.
“After doing BJJ for a few years and really getting into the community, I started getting interested in mixed martial arts too, and started realizing I’m pretty good in martial arts in general, not just taido and karate,” he says.
“After being introduced to that, I started thinking that I could actually do this professionally and chase my dreams.”
He was not wrong. Following a short amateur run, Toivonen went undefeated in his first six professional contests against strong competition from around Europe and as far afield as Brazil.
The Finn also maintained a 100-percent finishing rate, which is made up of five submissions and one TKO via ground and pound, which displayed his dominance on the ground.
A New Chapter
Toivonen’s next big step in his martial arts career came when he traveled to Singapore for Evolve’s global tryouts in November.
He impressed the coaches – particularly with his smooth ground game – and earned his place on the team, and he has trained hard in “The Lion City” to develop his overall skill set under the guidance of many BJJ and Muay Thai World Champions.
Leaving Finland and the environment that had molded and afforded him great success was not an easy decision, but the opportunity to learn from martial arts legends was too good to pass up for the 27-year-old.
“In Finnish standards, I think my city was one of the best places to train,” Toivonen admits.
“Evolve has world-class coaches, they are able to see the skills you have already, help to develop and build them up, and help you express them even better.”
Going For Gold
Aleksi Toivonen is ready to make a MASSIVE statement in his ONE debut this Friday! ????????: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY????: Get your tickets at ???? http://bit.ly/onemastersofdestiny19????: Check local listings for global TV broadcast????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp ????????: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, July 8, 2019
Shortly after he earned his spot on his new team, Toivonen signed to compete in The Home Of Martial Arts, and his first match is sure to be a treat for grappling fans.
The Evolve representative’s opponent also boasts a 100-percent finishing rate, including two TKOs since his graduation from Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series last March.
It is a match that cannot come soon enough for “The Giant,” who already has his crosshairs aimed at the biggest prize in his sport.
“My goal is to be the flyweight World Champion. I believe that if you want to make the best out of anything, you have to be willing to go all-in,” he explains.
“I had a great support team in Finland – great coaches. They are really cheering me on and still supporting me, so now that I have a chance to train and fight for Evolve, it’s a great opportunity, and I’m not going to waste it.”