It took just 75 seconds for De Ridder to get the submission win, but he anticipates a tougher challenge when he takes on the experienced Brazilian Gilberto “Giba” Galvao at ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST on Saturday, 15 June.
A longer contest will help fans inside the Baoshan Arena learn more about his skills in the ring, but what about the man outside of it? Here is everything you need to know about “The Dutch Knight.”
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De Ridder was an only child to his taxi driver father and civil servant mother, and the early portion of his youth in the Netherlands brings back positive memories.
“I’m a Dutch-made man,” the 28-year-old proudly asserts.
“I had a really nice childhood. I grew up in a small place just outside Tilburg and, like a lot of Dutch cities, there were a lot of good possibilities.”
De Ridder was a strong student academically, but he did not enjoy learning in the school setting and ultimately, that led to some ill-discipline. Instead, he focused his energy on sports.
“In sport, I always did very well. I was always very athletic,” he says.
“I did judo from a young age, and I was always playing football on the fields outside.
“I found out that my true talent is in my motor-learning skills — if someone shows me a move, I can copy it, internalize it, and use it very quickly.”
A Martial Arts Reality Check
De Ridder’s inclination towards hands-on learning helped him in his martial arts career. He started judo at the age of 5, but he only really excelled later when he found his true combat sports passion.
“I didn’t have a rough childhood and I never had to defend myself on the streets,” he explains. “It was just a good sport to do. It was a hobby, a good way to train, and something I always really enjoyed.
“It never got really far. I won some regional titles in judo, but nothing major. Everything just started to click with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts later in life.”
The Dutchman’s first encounter with BJJ at 19 did not impress him, however.
De Ridder tried his hand at some other sporting endeavors, but when a colleague urged him to give “the gentle art” another try, he obliged. Evidently, it turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“I moved to Breda for university and I was looking for another judo club to train at. I couldn’t really find one, but I heard about a sport called BJJ and I thought I’d give it a try,” he says.
“I wasn’t really charmed by it at first. I stepped on the mat and handled all the guys, and the teacher didn’t want to roll with me as he saw I was giving the others trouble.
“I thought, ‘This is not for me, it is too easy.’ I wanted to look for something else, so I did some rugby and I was looking for another judo club. But then during an internship, a guy I worked with told me about another gym to train at.
“I went there for the first time, and it was amazing. I was rolling with the smaller guys, and everybody was tapping me. I definitely went home with a smaller ego, but with a new goal in life.”
Going It Alone
Though his early childhood was content, a young De Ridder experienced a major upheaval when his parents divorced. At the time, he was 14 years old.
Both his mother and father did their best to share their parenting duties, but this meant instability at a precarious time for the teenager.
“I stayed with both of them two weeks at a time. It wasn’t good for me,” he states.
“It just drove me crazy. Moving all my stuff all the time wasn’t nice. There was no consistency. I needed some stability, and it wasn’t really there.”
When he had the opportunity to move to the bigger city of Breda to continue his studies, he jumped at the chance, and it helped him to pave his own way in life.
“I just wanted to take care of myself. I left home at 18, and it was very good for me,” he continues.
“It gave me a chance to discover myself, and to train as much as I wanted. I’m very much independent anyway, so moving out on my own helped me a lot.”
Independence Pays Off
De Ridder flourished in Breda and has remained in the city where he forged his own path as an athlete, gym owner, and physical therapist. He made his professional mixed martial arts debut in 2013 and never looked back.
“Man, those first few fights were crazy,” he recalls.
“I was terribly nervous before the first fight, but when the ref said go, something switched. I turned on. I forgot about all the striking, and I just ran towards the guy, grabbed him, and choked him out.
“It was the biggest rush I’ve ever felt. To be in there and to let your skills go was crazy.”
The Combat Brothers representative’s competition experience in judo and BJJ helped him to take control of his emotions.
His confidence grew as he continued to rack up victories on the road against tough, hometown opponents. Along the way, he became a two-time European Mixed Martial Arts Champion.
A final win in South Africa earned “The Dutch Knight” a 9-0 record with a 100 percent finishing rate, and that led him to The Home Of Martial Arts.
Now his focus is on the ONE Middleweight World Championship, but to get there, he has to overcome his biggest challenge to date in Galvao.
“He is a good opponent. I’m glad they gave me this guy,” De Ridder says. “It is a step closer to the World Title.”