Get To Know: Sergej Maslobojev

Sergej “Kuvalda” Maslobojev (32-6) will be hoping for an impressive ONE Championship debut on Saturday, 12 May.

The Lithuanian striker is scheduled to meet Croatian hard-hitter Antonio Plazibat (16-2) in a ONE Super Series kickboxing bout at ONE: GRIT & GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Maslobojev has momentum and experience on his side, as well as a 2016 victory over Plazibat already on his record. This is as a confidence booster for him, but he’s not being complacent, as he knows his Croatian opponent will be desperately seeking redemption.

There is a lot at stake in this battle between familiar foes, but before the bout kicks off, here is everything you need to know about “Kuvalda.”

A Brother’s Lasting Memory

Maslobojev was born and raised in the seaside city of Klaipeda. The city is a vital port that fulfills a huge role in Lithuania’s economy, but it’s not a place where the aspiring kickboxer could find much inspiration.

Growing up with his parents and his eldest brother, tragedy struck the family when Maslobojev was only 6 years old. His sibling passed away, and the devastated youngster lost his best friend. However, despite the short time they enjoyed together, he’d been influenced in a way that would stick with him for the rest of his life.

“We would watch Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies,” Maslobojev recalls.

“He would hit me around, saying, ‘This is not for fun, but to help you to give it back if somebody tries to bully you.’ We dreamed that we would grow up to be like the tough guys in the movies.”

That laid the foundations for his journey in martial arts in the years to come. However, before he made his dream a reality, he spent much of his youth without a clear direction or goal.

He was never motivated by school, saying that being stuck inside the gray walls of the classroom and being talked down to by teachers was always “a nightmare” for him. 

The Lithuanian did not have any role models, or any real goals of his own. Soon, during his teenage years, he rolled with a tough crowd, and that led to trouble.

“I just liked to hang around with the guys,” he admits. “I had no vision of me in the future. We would do a lot of stuff that was not always smart. I was just living my life like all the young guys who did not have anything special in their lives.”

His salvation would come through sports. He pursued anything that gave him an excuse to skip classes. In time, he’d find the perfect outlet to excel.

Inspired By Legends

Sometimes, it just takes one catalyst to completely change a person’s course.

Martial arts served this purpose for “Kuvalda.” A lack of interest in studying and trouble with the police came from an absence of purpose, but that was turned around when he stumbled upon kickboxing.

Maslobojev had enjoyed weightlifting, a hobby he discovered while skipping school, but he soon realized his long frame would eliminate him from the highest levels of competition in the sport.

Nonetheless, he finally had ambition. There was always the burning desire to pursue combat sports, dating back to watching those martial arts films with his brother. With that in mind, he put down the weights, and picked up the gloves.

“It was time to take a different step. I was never going to become an Olympic champion [in weightlifting], so I went after my dream of martial arts,” he explains.

“It was around 2005. My friend had the internet — not many people in Lithuania had it then — and he called me to come over and watch a guy called Mirko “Cro Cop.” He inspired me. He seemed so cool.

“The next week, my friend called me again, and said, ‘You have to come and watch this guy!’ It was Wanderlei Silva. I was blown away. From that day forward, I told myself I was going to be a part of this — not just as a fan, and not just watching. I was going to train.”

Maslobojev eventually worked up the courage to step into a Muay Thai gym with his friend. He had been warned and told some horror stories of newcomers getting a hard time. However, instead of a hostile environment, he found exactly what he was searching for his entire life – a place he could thrive.

“It was scary, but at 18 years old, my dream came true when Wanderlei inspired me to walk through the doors of the gym.”

The Road To World Championship Gold

After finding his passion inside the dojo, Maslobojev immediately started working to turn his dreams into a reality. The Lithuanian was thrown into professional bouts within months of setting foot on the mats, but soon realized he was not seeing any of the rewards.

“I understood that something was wrong, competing professionally for free. I did not get any money. The coach took all the money, and he did not even give me the knowledge I needed to grow, and I started losing,” Maslobojev remembers.

“I earned some money elsewhere, saved it, and used it to go to other cities to get good training and sparring. I invested in myself, and it paid off as I started to put together the wins again.”

When bills had to be paid, competing was not always enough, so Maslobojev worked hard as a scaffolder while putting martial arts on the backburner. But one day, he had enough. He decided his nation’s capital city was the only place to progress.

“I needed to do something that would bring me closer to my dream, so I quit work, and moved to Vilnius,” he says. “I changed gyms a few times until I found Sparta Gym, where I am right now with great coaches.”

Using Loss As A Motivator

The tragic loss of his brother shook Maslobojev’s entire family to their core. As well as coping with that loss, he also found it difficult to see the grief his father was going through. 

Yet, somehow, the family patriarch managed to find the words that would keep his youngest boy’s fire burning for the rest of his life.

“My father was crying for a long time, and when I went to comfort him, I remember him telling me that now I had to live for two people,” Maslobojev says.

“It was a bad experience for me, but I took the motivation from it to work for both of us — to have fun for two people, to achieve something for two people, and to do everything twice as hard. That stayed with me all my life.”

Those words have motivated “Kuvalda” more than anything. He is committed to seizing the opportunities his brother never had the chance to take.

At age 30, and with some of the best years still ahead of him, Maslobojev is already a KOK World Champion, a WAKO Pro World Champion, and a multiple-time national and European champion.

The list of accomplishments keeps growing, and he is keen to build upon that in ONE Super Series. After all, he is not just doing this for himself, but for his older brother, too.

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