Lion Fight Lightweight World Champion Ognjen Topic knows he is one of the luckiest people in the world.
To explain the meaning behind that requires a journey back to the early 1990s. At the time, the aspiring martial artist and his family were living in Bosnia during the breakout of the Yugoslav Wars. The military conflict left more than 130,000 people dead, with another 4,000,000 being displaced from their homes.
Topic’s family fell into that latter category, as they relocated from Bosnia to Serbia for three years during the conflict. Even though it was difficult living in a war-torn country, his parents always tried to give him the best possible life in the worst possible circumstances.
“It was a struggle. I feel bad for me and my sister having to go through that time. But to be honest, we were actually one of the lucky ones,” the 32-year-old recalls ahead of his ONE Super Series Muay Thai bout at ONE: GRIT & GLORY.
“A lot of kids stayed without their parents and lost them in the war, or they themselves got killed. We did not have too much trouble, but it was still rough. The living conditions were bad. We did not have a bathroom. We were sleeping in a basement with jackets on during the winter.
“It was bad for a while, but we fought through all that, and my parents always wanted to give me and my sister the best living conditions they could afford.”
Topic’s father had traveled back and forth to the United States for his construction job, and sent money back to the family to help support the household.
However, in 1995, the patriarch changed all of their lives for the better. He won an immigration lottery, and was able to bring his wife, his daughter, and young Ognjen to the United States. The family lived in New Jersey, and started anew.
Soon, another journey began for Topic. This time, it was his martial arts journey.
Topic loved watching boxing on television, and initially wanted to train in the ‘sweet science.’ But after his parents forbade him from taking up the sport, he opted for taekwondo at age 14.
Four years later, he discovered Muay Thai for the first time, but once again his parents refused to let him do anything more than just practice the sport. However, rather than give up something he loved, Topic hid it from his parents as he continued to train and prepare for the day when he would finally turn professional.
The Serbian competed in secret for nine years before his parents found out. Unfortunately for him, another family member saw one of his bouts on YouTube and showed it to his dad.
Evidently, his dad was not pleased, and the Muay Thai practitioner admits, “My father stopped talking for me for four months.”
Despite their strong objections about him competing in Muay Thai, Topic eventually gained his parents’ blessing when they saw just how much he loved doing what he was doing, and how dedicated he was to his craft.
That is another reason why Topic credits his mother and father for being the biggest inspirations in his career, even though they never actually knew he was competing for nine years.
“I learned a lot from my parents, just watching them struggle through their life,” Topic explains.
“My father was very hard working. He was smart financially. He was smart with how he took care of us. I learned a lot from him even though in our culture as Serbians, we do not really sit down and have these long discussions to talk about those kinds of things or what you should be doing. You just learn by looking and watching how they did things. They had a big part in that as well.”
The other major influence his parents have had on their son is Topic’s undying desire to always do better.
Much like when they were stuck in a war-torn country while trying to raise two small children, Topic’s parents were not satisfied with just surviving. Instead, they scratched and clawed their way to provide a better life for their family.
That same kind of hunger and drive is what never allows Topic to quench his thirst for success.
“I am never content. I am never satisfied with what I have achieved. I always feel like I can do better,” the Serbian kickboxer says.
“I built up this image in my mind, and I say to myself, ‘I want to get this title,’ and that is what I am working towards. Maybe I will be happy after I get that title. Then boom, I get that title, and I am not happy. I want the next best thing. It is like a constant struggle for me to always achieve even more.”
On Saturday, 12 May, Topic will compete in front of the biggest global audience he has ever performed for. He meets Triumph Kombat Champion Stergos “Greek Dynamite” Mikkios at ONE: GRIT & GLORY from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, and the event will broadcast live to 1.7 billion people in 138 countries around the world.
Topic may not be content just yet, but he is lucky, and happy to be where he is at today.