There is something special happening in Bali, Indonesia.
In recent years, Bali MMA has emerged as a martial arts powerhouse with a remarkable team comprised of elite talents such as flyweight contender Gianni Subba, former bantamweight world title challenger Andrew Leone, and Indonesian hero Stefer Rahardian.
While those three, and many more, are experiencing a tremendous amount of success in competition, there is one man who is always in their corner and advising them on their next move. That man is Don Carlo-Clauss, the gym’s head coach.
Carlo-Clauss, who co-owns Bali MMA alongside the Leone brothers and Steve Suryadinata, is a former professional athlete who has coached all throughout the region. He was a coach at Phuket Top Team before leaving to co-launch the Indonesian training paradise in October 2014. Now, the gym has emerged as the premier martial arts facility in all of Indonesia.
This coming weekend, Carlo-Clauss will be cornering headliner Gianni Subba, Muhammad Aiman, and Riski Umar as they take to the cage for ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. In this exclusive interview, the Bali MMA head coach talks about the group’s success, adjusting Subba’s training for his bout with Reece McLaren, and much more.
ONE Championship: Why is Bali such a good spot for a martial arts gym?
Don Carlo-Clauss: It’s got everything Phuket’s got. It has a cheap cost of living, and a high standard of training. The big thing that separates us [from everywhere else] is we have amazing, world-class surfing, and I would say the international cuisine is of a higher standard and better here than Phuket. Bali is quite a bit bigger than Phuket as far as size of the island, so here you can go up in the mountains, find different beaches and things like that.
Also, it is a little bit of a different scene here, because there are, like, a hundred gyms in Phuket. The bulk of our business is for people who want to come in, train, and have fun. We have beginners and people who have been training for a while, but we have a competition team as well. We keep that separate from the normal classes though.
ONE: In less than four years, Bali MMA has built an solid coaching staff and competition team. That is really quick.
DCC: We were lucky because we came from coaching guys who were already in Southeast Asia and were travelers a bit. And we already came in with two good athletes in the Leone brothers. Then Gianni and Keanu [Subba] were kinda the first ones who were out here from day one. Those two put their trust in us, and we kept that group together. Then [Muhammad] Aiman came out to visit one time, and I just started recruiting him.
There has been effort on both ends to put together a good team, because you’ve got to have training partners for the guys, and you have to have a certain amount of guys so you can prepare them year around. But I will say the guys who are on our team have made the commitment to being here full time, and it has paid off for them, and it has paid off for us too. Our team is not huge, but we have had a core group of guys who had real success.
ONE: Gianni Subba was supposed to meet Danny Kingad, but will now meet Reece McLaren at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. How do you adjust to opponents on short notice?
DCC: It is definitely a different opponent, so you have to shift gears a little bit. But it is still a lot of the same stuff. With Kingad, you have to be ready to clinch and wrestle, and Reece likes to wrestle and clinch as well, so that does not change a lot. He is a little bit more dynamic with his striking, but we think Gianni is better in that area. We are going in with that same mentality — we want to win in every position.
Gianni has been getting better with every match, especially since he bas been out here training with the Leones, who are black belts, going day in and day out for four years now. He can compete with anybody.
Our whole team, we are always taking matches on short notice, and we get a lot of opportunities that way. Sometimes we get good match-ups and opportunities because our guys are willing to stay ready, willing to shift, and willing to make adjustments on the fly. So we had a lot of success with it.
ONE: Stefer Rahardian is another guy who has performed very well. How do you feel about his development overall?
DCC: Stefer is a guy who keeps getting better. The more time he spends training with us, the better he is getting. He has really good wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and his striking is improving. We are excited about him and his future. He is also our head jiu-jitsu coach in Jakarta most of the time. We have a program with him where he goes back and forth between Bali MMA and Jakarta Muay Thai & MMA, because he has family — I think everyone knows his story at this point.
Right now, we are thinking about going down a weight class because Stefer makes flyweight relatively easy. I think with a couple of adjustments, he can make strawweight, and I think that puts him in contention for the world title right off the bat.
ONE: You will be cornering three athletes at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY — Subba, Muhammad Aiman, and Riski Umar. Is it hard preparing all three at the same time?
DCC: No. I think it is better. I like it. For us, especially, the mood in our gym right now is awesome, because we have guys in the gym preparing together. That makes it easy as a coach, because everyone is excited. Even the guys not competing are excited.
The practices have had a lot of energy, because, like I said, we have a tight team. When we have a bunch of guys competing, and the rest of the team is here supporting them, it takes the level up, and it is awesome. It always makes it better.
As far as warming them up and cornering them, that’s easy. We will have extra guys and other teammates there to help out, so for us it is more exciting. And, as a coach, I’d always rather have as many guys on a card as I can.