The Netherlands is home for Regian “The Immortal” Eersel, but he will always honor his Surinamese roots.
The ONE Lightweight Kickboxing World Champion — who is set to defend his crown against Mustapha “Dynamite” Haida at ONE: FISTS OF FURY III — has made it his mission to inspire the young people in his country of birth to believe in themselves and achieve success.
That’s why it is even more important for “The Immortal” to retain his World Title gold at the previously recorded event, which airs from Singapore on Friday, 19 March.
“When I went back, I noticed that the young kids saw me as a role model. They look up to me because of what I’ve accomplished,” Eersel says.
“Taking the World Title back to Suriname, and when you see the smiling faces, it motivates me more and more. And that’s why I want to defend this belt as much as possible.”
Eersel was born in Suriname, which is located on the northeast coast of South America, and lived there until he was 4 years old when his family relocated to Europe.
Though “The Immortal” enjoyed his childhood in the tropical climes, his parents believed their children would have more opportunities in the Netherlands.
“My family decided to move to the Netherlands because [it gave us the chance] of a better future,” the star kickboxer says.
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Still, the young athlete grew up around many fellow Dutch-Surinamese people, family back in the South American nation, and even striking heroes from the same background — including Remy Bonjasky and Tyrone Spong.
Eersel always maintained a strong connection to his homeland, and when he returned in early 2019, that feeling grew and gave him clarity in his purpose to help the next generation.
“I was invited to the president’s palace, where I showed him the belt, and I visited some schools to give motivational speeches,” he recalls.
“I also visited some gyms to train with the local guys and girls, just to motivate them and talk with them. It was a nice experience and I think I will do it again.”
The 28-year-old star already had plenty of hunger to pursue his goals and cement his legacy in the martial arts world, but he now feels some responsibility to show his compatriots that they can do big things in life.
Just like the icons he looked up to, Eersel can offer the youth of today living proof that focus and dedication — through martial arts or other means — can change their destiny.
Those other icons include Anton de Kom, who received a statue in “The Immortal’s” neighborhood of Bijlmer. While Eersel laughs off the idea of his own monument, he’ll do his best to shape the future for those who come after him – both in his country of birth and for Suriname natives living in the Netherlands.
“I don’t think I will have a statue, but you never know. You can dream big,” he jokes.
“I have to go back [to Suriname] more often to motivate the kids and the young people. The upcoming fighters also. I was very proud when I was there.”