From The Rink To The Circle: Thomas Narmo’s Amazing Sports Journey

Norwegian MMA fighter Thomas Narmo

Thomas “The Last Viking” Narmo is ready to invade ONE Championship’s heavyweight division.

The colossal Norwegian will debut against Alain “The Panther” Ngalani at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II on Friday, 13 August, and he plans on making a big first impression at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Ahead of his inaugural raid in The Home Of Martial Arts, find out how Narmo went from a small-town upbringing to a career as a professional athlete, before eventually finding his calling in mixed martial arts.

Growing Up In Scandinavia

Narmo was born and raised in Skjetten, Norway, where he grew up with his mother, Unni, in the town 20 kilometers northeast of the capital, Oslo.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the youngster, but he considers himself fortunate to have been raised in a nation that’s known for its wealth and strong social security.

“Skjetten is a small place, but it has quite the reputation — it’s called the ghetto, but compared to everywhere else, it’s probably not that bad,” he jokes.

“I feel quite blessed to have grown up in Norway. It’s a good country to be born in. We are privileged with a lot of good things that everyone else in the world doesn’t have.

“My mom had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but I was able to do the things I wanted to do because of her and what she sacrificed.”

Narmo had a positive relationship with his father and two half-siblings, but they didn’t live together. He also spent a lot of time alone, quickly becoming independent.

While his mother worked cleaning and manual jobs alongside studying accountancy, “The Last Viking” made his own way to sports practices.

“I had to figure stuff out myself. My mom was working a lot, so I had to get myself to school. I started jumping on the bus quite early to get around,” he says.

“I was probably 6 years old when I started to travel by myself for about an hour just to get to swimming practice. I mean, since it’s Norway, it’s possible to do it — it’s not every country that you would let your 6-year-old kids do that.”

A Passion Derailed By Injury

From a young age, Narmo found that competition was the one thing he really loved. He tolerated practice for hobbies such as swimming and soccer, but he truly thrived on game days.

That competitive spirit then burned even brighter when he came across a new sport that seemed to click with his natural attributes.

“When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I started playing ice hockey, and that was a sport that I felt I could master somehow,” the Norwegian says.

“Normally, you learn to skate on the ice when you’re like 4 years old, and then you start playing at around 6. I started learning how to skate when I was 10 and started playing right away, so it was late. But I just happened to have some sort of talent for it, I guess.

“Obviously, I put in a lot of hours of training, and I managed to get a career out of it.”

The humble Narmo likely undersells his skills. He was picked for the Norwegian national team at the age of 15, and he turned professional when he left school.

“It got serious when I was about 13, and I understood that I could actually try to make a career out of it,” he recalls.

“I finished high school and moved to Finland to play professionally. Finland is one of the best countries in the world for hockey, so I was able to make a living and play professionally there.”

The talented athlete appeared to have a real future in the sport, but at the age of 20, he seriously injured his back in a collision on the ice – and the result was the end of his hockey career.

“The doctor said it was probably going to take up to two years to fully recover and be able to play. And even if I recovered, if something like this happened again, I might end up in a wheelchair,” Narmo says.

“I felt too young to take that risk, so I figured that I would just do the rehab training and move on with my life.

“It was a really dark moment of my life. I had to find myself again. I’d lost something I put thousands of hours of time and effort into. Suddenly, everything was gone. It was quite depressing for a while.”

Narmo moved into coaching and found success with the local youth team. But when he was offered a role with the seniors, he rejected it because he’d already found another passion.

Finding Purpose Again With Martial Arts

During the long rehabilitation for his back injury, “The Last Viking” struggled to stay motivated by simply going to the gym and pumping iron.

Competition remained his biggest driving force, so his physiotherapist suggested submission wrestling at the local mixed martial arts center.

“Lifting weights was kind of boring and I was always falling off. [The physiotherapist] said submission wrestling would probably be good for my rehab as well, because you develop a lot of core strength and good movements, so I figured I’d give it a try,” he recalls.

“I found the place to go, but I ended up in the wrong class. I ended up doing Muay Thai, but I didn’t know really because I didn’t do any research on what it was.

“I thought it was fun, so I just continued the session. After the class, I found out that it wasn’t submission wrestling. Then I tried that too, and I just got hooked.”

Despite being 23 and having no martial arts background, Narmo’s experience in a contact sport helped pave his way into fighting.

Within just two weeks, he stepped into his first Muay Thai bout. And though he lost a decision when his fitness didn’t match his enthusiasm, he never looked back.

“I used to be a goalkeeper in hockey. There’s an object that’s as hard as a rock and it can fly up to 160 kilometers per hour and hit you in the face. What was the worst that could happen?” Narmo asks with a chuckle.

“When I went into the ring for my first Muay Thai fight, it was a rush that I’d never experienced before and I’ve been continuing to do that [ever since].

“At first, I didn’t feel like I was done with hockey. I felt like I had so much more to accomplish. I wanted to play in the Olympics, but it didn’t happen. And sometimes, that’s life.

“You just need to find something else that gives your life meaning, and for me, that was martial arts.”

Fast-Track To MMA Success

“The Last Viking’s” athleticism and his previous career as a professional athlete meant that he hit the ground running in combat sports.

He was also committed to developing his skills quickly, and after starting out at Novus Academy in his hometown, he headed to the big city to push himself at the high-level Frontline Academy. 

“My first gym was a good gym. Small, really friendly, and a great environment, but Frontline had more professional and amateur fighters, so I felt like it was the right move for me to go there to develop,” Narmo says.

With more big guys around, and with elite coaches and training partners at his disposal, Narmo progressed quickly in MMA. But with the sport still illegal in his native country, he had to travel abroad to compete.

He initially fought in the amateur ranks before turning professional in 2019, amassing a perfect 4-0 slate with four first-round finishes.

That success caught the eye of ONE’s matchmakers, and despite Narmo still being relatively new to the sport, his physical prowess and professional attitude have prepared him to take things to the next level.

“It’s happened quite fast. That class I stepped into was only four years ago this summer, so getting the opportunity to compete at ONE Championship is a true honor for me,” he says.

“I’m so excited about this. My dream has always been to compete in Asia — I just find it more appealing — and my goal was to get a fight in ONE, and now that’s right around the corner.

“Mentally, I’m super prepared for this. I feel like this is my moment, it’s my time.”

Read more: Full Card Revealed For ONE: BATTLEGROUND II On 13 August

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