ONE Super Series is not the only place that Victor “Leo” Pinto flexes his competitive muscles.
The bantamweight Muay Thai striker – who takes on Han Zi Hao in the opening contest of ONE: NEXTGEN II at the Singapore Indoor Stadium this Friday, 12 November – is also an avid gamer and esports fanatic.
“I am a gaming streamer. I stream for Facebook, mainly,” he says.
“I’ve been streaming for about [four] years now, and this is what I’ve been doing [apart] from fighting, so I really love it.”
Pinto isn’t your average hobbyist, though. The 28-year-old committed himself to esports in the same manner that brought him success in Muay Thai – and this has pushed him into the upper echelon of the gaming world.
He believes as the popularity of the competitive gaming format grows, it will gain more respect, and fans will realize the effort it takes to get to the top.
“I play professionally for PUBG, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” Pinto says.
“Esports is growing a lot now, and I think it’s going to be the future of sports. It should be considered a sport as well, because most of the people think that gaming is just playing games.
“But if you want to compete at a high level, it’s really, really hard and you have to train every day, five to six hours, the same way as a fighter would train to fight.”
Before he signed with ONE Championship, Pinto was in limbo and spent a long time out of the ring.
During this downtime, esports filled the gap, and he used what he had learned from combat sports and applied it to his new passion.
“Esports actually has helped me a lot because I stopped fighting for two years, and it helped me focus a lot on a new discipline. And I see it as a real discipline because you have to be fully focused when you play professionally,” he offers.
However, after joining the world’s largest martial arts organization, Pinto recognized the commitment needed to succeed at the top, and he admits that something has to give when he is in training for a bout inside the Circle.
The Frenchman still plays, but he uses his free time to also look after his pro team – Pinto Gaming – and offer rising esports stars the opportunity to perform among the elite.
“Because I’m back to fighting, I’m going to stop a bit because it’s hard to find the time to do both. I want to be focused 100 percent on fighting and take all my chances,” he says.
“We have four teams now in different games. So, most of the teams we have are competing at a high level. Two of our teams are competing on the world level, so we’re trying to support them as well.
“I was playing a lot before because we didn’t have a lot of players. I can play well, but now I prefer giving the opportunity to younger players that maybe didn’t get the chance to play for a good team.”
As much as “Leo” loves the world of online competition, combat remains his first love and the focus for his energy while he is still in his athletic prime.
He knows a day will come when he will be able to put all of his time into esports, but for now, his focus is on his Muay Thai career and his tilt with Han on Friday.
“Fighting is not going to be forever, so I try to get experience in other jobs for when I’m going to be done,” he says.
“But my heart is true in going for fighting because I’ve been fighting since I was very young.”