When Murugan “Wolverine” Silvarajoo makes his ONE Championship debut next Friday, 9 October, it will be the single biggest moment of his life.
The Malaysian will take on Indonesia’s Eko Roni Saputra in a catch weight mixed martial arts contest at ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES, and he’s eager to prove that he belongs among World Champions while following in the footsteps of his country’s finest athletes.
Doing so won’t be easy, but Murugan has already overcome several adversities to reach this stage of his career. Now, he’s prepared to prove himself once again in the world’s largest martial arts organization – no matter the costs.
Murugan grew up in a family that lived by three principles in life – respect, dedication, and discipline. His father worked as a lorry driver and his mother as a maid to ensure their son and his three sisters could enjoy a comfortable life. But even with those sacrifices, their situation was a far cry from that.
Still, there was not one day where Murugan and his siblings complained, as they were provided with everything they needed while their parents put in long hours to make ends meet.
“To me, [my parents] are the people with the strongest mindsets that I have ever met,” the 29-year-old says. “I remember, as a kid, they would be up by four or five in the morning, just to prepare breakfast and send us to school, before heading out to earn a small pay.”
After those many hours at work, Murugan’s parents would still allocate some time to spend with the kids. The fighter cherishes those short moments to this day and says they helped teach him valuable lessons.
“Times were very hard, but I do not regret being where I was. I saw how much my parents did for us, even as a young boy, and that made me proud,” he explains.
“They always told us about the importance of working hard and being dedicated to something. Thankfully, their wish did eventually come true. Now, all of us are working. Whatever happened back then allowed us to turn out like this. Now, we help our parents a little bit whenever we can.”
The Call To Martial Arts
While other 8-year-olds in Malaysia his age were more interested in playing football or badminton, Murugan stumbled upon a group of students donning doboks and colored belts while practicing eye-catching kicks and blocks with a coach.
Fascinated by the moment, the youngster learned the name of the sport, went home, and told his dad that he wanted to try taekwondo.
“I wasn’t excited or happy whenever I did other sports, and this was pretty much love at first sight,” he says.
Only six months into training, Murugan’s master recognized his potential and offered a chance to test his skills on an amateur level. With that, the student accepted the opportunity to compete at a taekwondo event in Kuala Lumpur.
Murugan can’t remember much about preparing for his debut, but that fight eventually helped change his perspective on life.
“I was nervous,” he recalls. “My opponent was big, and the moment the referee asked us to fight, I couldn’t think about anything.
“I saw this huge guy coming at me, and all I knew was that I had to run. I was scared.”
Rather than sulk following the loss, the young athlete told himself one thing: If he kept on running from every obstacle, he would eventually be running away from every challenging situation.
“I guess this is my biggest lesson,” he says. “I remind myself every day that I am my biggest enemy.”
Murugan continued training in the Korean martial art for another six years.
That dedication started to prevail. He earned a red belt, found success in competitions, and developed a positive mindset.
“I won at least 10 taekwondo matches until I was 14 years old,” Murugan says. “It was fun, but trust me, winning was secondary.
“I just loved being on the mats competing. To me, competition is the best way we learn and improve on our mistakes.”
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Taking A Break
Despite that initial success, Murugan slowly lost interest in martial arts, instead using his impressive athletic abilities in other sports such as football and running.
Then upon graduating from secondary school – and with the hopes of repaying his parents for their sacrifices throughout his childhood – he took up jobs as a grass cutter, a promoter, and a cinema worker, allowing him to save a small portion for studies and savings.
Life was beginning to kick in, but the talented athlete also knew that a part of him was missing.
“It got too repetitive, and at one point, I told myself I would not be able to do this any longer,” he recalls.
“While working in the cinemas, I started to fall in love with martial arts again – the only difference, this time it was Muay Thai.
“I watched a lot of Buakaw [Banchamek] and Saenchai [PK.Saenchai Muaythaigym] videos, and that instantly sent a message to my head. I knew I had to step back onto the mats to train and fight.”
So, in 2013 – eight years after he last practiced – Murugan searched high and low for the best gym that catered to his budget, and MuayFit in Petaling Jaya topped that list.
The Malaysian gym ticked off two key boxes on his checklist – a great coaching staff and strong facilities.
“MuayFit was really huge at that time,” he says.
“A couple of days later, I went to the gym and paid almost RM4000 ($1,000 USD) for a three-year membership. I wanted a good investment, and the greatest investment of them all is myself.
“A lot of people questioned my decision because I could have purchased a bike with that kind of money, but I just told them that I was fed up with a boring life.”
A New Journey
Upon joining the gym, Murugan felt just like the little kid who’d once fallen in love with martial arts. But this time, he was determined to make it his career.
“After just a couple of months, I said that this was it, I want to be doing this for the rest of my life,” he offers.
“My dad was very supportive of my choice, while my mum preferred me to work my way up and earn a more steady income.”
The MuayFit representative stuck to his choice, however, and trained “the art of eight limbs” consistently.
He also participated in several amateur and professional Muay Thai events across Malaysia. And each time, he had one goal in mind – to be a better version of himself than yesterday.
“Martial arts isn’t about revenge or destroying someone in a ring. I just loved fighting, and I wanted to be a good martial artist with a great character,” he says.
Then in 2016, Murugan stumbled across ONE Championship. He noticed there was a huge demand for mixed martial arts in Malaysia, as the local venue was often packed with supporters and the showmanship was spot-on.
“It was at that point where I dreamt of being in there and fighting against opponents from all over the world,” he explains. “[Fellow Malaysian] Agilan Thani’s journey inspired me, too.”
So, after only training in Muay Thai, the athlete decided to do a bit of wrestling, boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in an effort to develop an all-round mixed martial arts game.
Later that year, he made his debut, and in the span of four years, Murugan racked up five combined victories in amateur and professional competition.
This past September, Murugan received the biggest call of his life – to compete in ONE Championship.
When he received it, his mind went blank, as he was uncertain if he could make such a significant jump up in his career. However, one of his longtime coaches, Richard “Notorious” Corminal, was confident that his student was prepared to take on this new challenge.
“He told me to just go for it, and what was once a dream five years ago is now a reality,” Murugan says with some emotion.
Indeed, “Wolverine” has trained hard and is looking forward to facing his next obstacle in life – a multiple-time Indonesian Wrestling Champion in Saputra.
Murugan is approaching this challenge with the three pillars instilled in him by his parents at a young age – respect, dedication, and discipline.
“I have a lot of respect for my opponent because he is a very skilled athlete. His wrestling is really good, and I have to be aware of that. He has got some great wins in ONE already, and I’m hoping I can get my first win,” Murugan says.
“I’ve spent more time than I already was, dedicating myself to new things to prepare against a fighter like him. I know it won’t be easy, but everything in my life has never been easy.”
A victory over his cross-regional rival next Friday night would undoubtedly be the highlight of Murugan’s career to date. But win or lose, he just wants to display the best version of himself to family, friends, and fans.
“I’m coming for the win, but I hate to pressure myself that way,” he says. “I just want to step inside the ring and feel what it’s like to compete again.
“COVID-19 has left a lot of fighters craving for some game time, and I’m just glad mine is happening in ONE.”