Brothers In Arms: The Relationship That Spurred Maurice Abevi To MMA Success

Blake Cooper Maurice Abevi ONE Fight Night 14 41

Maurice Abevi can draw a direct line from his childhood to his fierce fighting spirit.  

Competition was ingrained into the Swiss standout’s life as a youngster, and it’s the fuel that ultimately led him to ONE Championship – and his showdown against “The Warrior” Zhang Lipeng at ONE Fight Night 22 on Prime Video.  

There were points in his life where Abevi could have given up on his goal of MMA success, but with a fire constantly running through his veins, he’s never contemplated anything other than chasing his dreams. 

Before he returns at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, May 3, find out what kickstarted the 24-year-old’s journey into combat.

Growing Up In Zurich 

Abevi was born on the outskirts of Zurich, Switzerland, with his parents, twin brother Jonas, and two older brothers.

His father was an asylum seeker from Togo who met his mother when she volunteered at a refugee center translating the Bible from German to French.  

Like the story of a movie, the pair fell in love, and when Abevi’s father was legally allowed to stay in Switzerland, they got married and he resumed his job as a tailor.

Recalling fond memories of his childhood, Abevi said: 

“Zurich is a really calm place, [there’s] a lot of nature. And it’s good for family stuff. I was close to the city, but still more in the countryside. So I grew up there. I lived in the same house for 20 years. 

“We were doing a lot of stuff like playing soccer or messing around, just doing stupid things or getting in trouble.” 

The rising star knew from an early age that academics wasn’t going to be his forte and he thrived in more active pursuits. 

He added: 

“I was always into sports. I played soccer for 12 years since I was 4. I wanted to be a professional soccer player, but then I kind of lost interest in it. But I was always athletic, always trying to move, always trying to do something.  

“I’m a smart guy, but I think the academic way was never really my strong suit because I’m not good at sitting down for a long time. When I sit down too much, I get tired and I can’t concentrate on stuff. I’m at my best when I’m active.” 

Forged By A Sibling Rivalry 

One of the ways Abevi stayed active was in daily tussles with his twin Jonas.  

While at the time it was just brothers doing what brothers do, later in life the Swiss fighter realized this was what forged his competitive spirit.  

He explained: 

“We would always fight with each other. Like, one guy would steal the other guy’s Nintendo or phone or whatever, and the other guy would try to get it back, and then all of a sudden we would just fight. We didn’t care about the Nintendo anymore. 

“We were always competitive, and that’s a big part of my overall attitude. I feel like my brother was always the better fighter or the better football player and that would always make me angry. I would always compete with him and try to be better. And that made me really hungry, even until now.” 

The pair enjoyed boxing and then got into mixed martial arts through video games, testing their moves in real life, but it was a more serious incident that saw them step through the doors of a gym for the first time.  

Until that point, they were just messing around, but an unfortunate night on the streets of downtown Zurich spurred them into action at age 17.  

Abevi recalls: 

“We would play the game on the PlayStation and we would really enjoy it. We would be competitive in it, and then me and my brother started watching it more and more, and also trying techniques.  

“Then one day we got jumped by some random guys who just wanted to beat us up. We were in the city at night and some guys just came up on us, there were six guys and just us two. They beat us up and that was a learning experience for us. 

“We were like, ‘Man, we don’t want this to happen again.’ The next day, we started looking for an MMA gym. We found 360 Martial Arts and that was the first gym I started at. It was awesome.” 

Prodigious Talent 

The scrappy duo’s familiarity with the sport was evident from their first session. Abevi recalls going there and tapping out the gym’s other white belts with made-up moves or things they’d learned from playing games and watching fights. 

However, enlisting in classes took them to the next level. They trained every day and quickly got better – though it was another moment with his brother in their first competition that stoked the fire. 

Abevi said: 

“We started with a grappling tournament that was like three months into our training. That was funny because it was a submission-only tournament and me and my brother both got into the final.  

“We fought hard for the final and he submitted me with an armbar. That was a hard day for me. I was happy for him. I love him. There was no bad blood or anything. But it was still like, ‘I need to be better at this.’” 

While Abevi’s twin Jonas still trains and may compete again, he didn’t get bitten by the bug in the same way.  

The Tiger Muay Thai and 360 Martial Arts athlete dropped everything to go after MMA success, giving up a carpentry apprenticeship and working odd jobs just to earn enough money to train. 

Reflecting on their different trajectories, he said: 

“My brother still loves MMA. We talk about it a lot and it’s still a real big passion for him. But it’s not like me where he says, ‘OK, this is the purpose of my life.’ And at this point in my life, I don’t want to do anything else than this. 

“Maybe one year into my training I realized it was what I wanted to do because I got better and better. People told me, ‘You have potential. You can be something.’ I was just thinking, ‘What if I try this and I don’t make it?’ Then I thought I’d rather try it and fail than never try. And now I’m here.” 

Rapid Success 

Abevi dove headfirst into the professional ranks and his hard work earned him the opportunity he was hoping for.  

After just one pro bout, he got the chance to compete in a tournament with five fights in quick succession for a potential 10,000 Euro prize. 

The Swiss star blitzed the competition with five consecutive finishes, and when he got the cheque, he moved straight out to Thailand to commit himself full time to reaching the top.  

He recalled: 

“That was the tipping point where I was like, ‘OK, now I can live from it.’ Then I moved to Thailand and stayed there.

“It’s still sometimes a struggle, it’s not like I live the luxurious life, but I can live now from it. I can train, eat, and sleep, and that’s enough.”

After signing his ONE contract while at Phuket’s Tiger Muay Thai, Abevi sustained a serious knee injury that put him out of action for 18 months and derailed all of his momentum.  

However, he knew he would not be beaten and stayed the course, eventually debuting against Halil Amir in April 2023. Although the result didn’t go his way, the pair put on one of the most memorable fights of the year, and Abevi got back on the winning track with a finish over Blake Cooper that September. 

Now preparing for his most experienced opponent yet in Zhang, the 24-year-old’s vision is clearer than ever, and he wants to continue his upward trajectory on the global stage.  

He said: 

“Even during my injury, I knew there was no turning back for me. I know this is my way. I know this is my life and it was never a possibility to give up. 

“I feel so blessed, man. I know how so many fighters want to be in my position and I’m grateful.” 

More in Features

Tawanchai PK Saenchai
Victoria Souza Noelle Grandjean ONE Fight Night 20 34
Masaaki Noiri
Katsuki Kitano Halil Kutukcu ONE Friday Fights 38 25
Jo Nattawut Luke Lessei ONE Fight Night 17 84
Johan Ghazali Temirlan Bekmurzaev ONE Friday Fights 36 17
Stamp Fairtex vs. Anna Jaroonsak at ONE Fight Night 6
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao drops Liam Harrison at ONE on Prime Video 1
Mikey Musumeci Osamah Almarwai ONE Fight Night 10 36
Kade Ruotolo Tommy Langaker ONE 165 28
Masaaki Noiri
Adrian Lee and Christian Lee