As a troublesome youngster, ONE Lightweight Kickboxing World Champion Regian “The Immortal” Eersel did not always see the value in his parents’ lessons, but now he knows they were crucial to his route to the top.
The 26-year-old Dutchman – who rematches Nieky “The Natural” Holzken at ONE: DAWN OF VALOR in Jakarta, Indonesia this Friday, 25 October – had the only thing he loved taken away from him to force him on to the right track.
At the age of 14, he was an avid rugby player, but his parents banned him from the sport until he could temper his misbehavior.
“I was just a bad kid at school – not listening to the teachers, not doing my homework, stuff like that,” Eersel reveals.
“So, my parents took the only thing that I liked away from me, and that was rugby. They said to me, ‘You can’t do rugby because you don’t listen to us or the teachers. You must focus now.’ At the time I was very mad about it.”
“The Immortal” resisted, but he knew there was only one way to regain their favor and trust so he could return to sports.
He committed to his studies, and when his parents saw an improvement, they kept up their end of the bargain by allowing their son a much-needed physical outlet for his energy.
“Staying at home all the time was not good for me, I had too much energy in my body,” he laughs.
“In the four months after they stopped me playing, I was getting better in school and my grades went up, so my parents said to me, ‘Okay, it’s going well now. It worked, and it’s time that you choose a sport.’”
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This was the crossroads in Eersel’s life that set him on his path to World Championship gold. Instead of returning to rugby, he decided to try martial arts.
He had trained in taekwondo when he was younger, but after he was exposed to kickboxing, he thought it would be the perfect, healthy way to channel his aggression. Once he walked through the doors of Sityodtong Amsterdam for the first time, he never looked back.
“I wondered whether I should continue rugby or find a new sport. I thought rugby was not aggressive enough for me,” he recalls.
“It was okay, but I could not lose all of my aggression, so I thought I would try kickboxing. It motivated me a lot. Finally, I had something to look forward to again. I was always excited to go and train after school.”
Before, Eersel had only jumped through the hoops so he could return back to sports, but the experience changed him. After that, he did not need to be pressured into putting in the hard work – he knew what was required of him to rise to a challenge.
Now, he can see the bigger picture and recognizes that his parents took away something he loved because they wanted what was best for him in the long run. After that, he did not take anything for granted.
“I was an annoying kid, and at that time I was very mad at them, but a kid doesn’t look at the world like an adult does,” states “The Immortal.”
“Now, I want to thank my parents for what they did and for the many lessons they gave me. I learned that sometimes if you want to accomplish something, you have to put things aside to reach that goal.
“It made me realize you need to put in some hard work to achieve things, and the more I accomplish in my kickboxing career, the more I see that.”