How Mehdi Zatout Achieved His Childhood Dream

French-Algerian star Mehdi Zatout hits Chinese striker Han Zi Hao with a roundhouse kick

Mehdi “Diamond Heart” Zatout is ready to build off his momentum in ONE Super Series and make 2020 his best year in the world’s largest martial arts organization.

The 36-year-old is scheduled to face Leo Pinto in a kickboxing bantamweight clash at ONE: NO SURRENDER II in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, 14 August.

Zatout, who co-owns Venum Training Camp Thailand in Pattaya, is looking to display the skills that made him a kickboxing and Muay Thai champion in organizations around the globe.

Before his battle in the Thai capital, learn a little bit more about “Diamond Heart.”

A Childhood Love Of Muay Thai

Zatout got his start in Muay Thai through a group of school friends who were learning at a local gym in his hometown of Noisy-le-Sec, an eastern suburb in Paris, France. He quickly became hooked on “the art of eight limbs.”

“I started Muay Thai when I was 10 years old and met my team. There were around 10 people,” he says. 

Although he remained in school, Zatout never thought about pursuing anything other than a career in Muay Thai and traveling to Thailand to practice in the sport’s birthplace.

It wasn’t the most typical path for a teenager growing up in the French capital, but it was his dream. Fortunately, his mother supported him.

“My mom let me do what I loved,” Zatout says.

“I never thought about college. I was already dreaming of Muay Thai. In France, I was working, but I was always training before work, and then during my breaks, I would go train in Muay Thai or go running.”

The Journey To Thailand

Zatout was learning with the best Muay Thai practitioners he could find in France and competing whenever he could. He did this all while working a full-time job in his family business, which sold bathroom fixtures.

Despite his best efforts to contribute to the company, he followed his heart and opened a store that complemented his love for combat sports.

“I sold all of what I had – my car, everything – and I opened my own boxing shop,” he says.

But not even that store could keep him in France when he got a call from one of his sponsors – Venum. The company was looking for somebody to teach at its Thailand gym and believed Zatout would be a great addition.

“My boss said they were having problems in their training facility, so I was able to move to Bangkok,” he states.

The Frenchman stopped competing and placed all of his attention on teaching. But as much as he loved being a coach and a leader for his team, he knew his place was in the ring.

“I had to leave my passion for teaching to return to fighting,” he says.

A Tragic Death

Zatout’s roots in Muay Thai go back 26 years, but his aspirations in martial arts nearly came to an end when he was still a teenager.

When he was just 14 years old, his head coach died suddenly, and a gaping hole was left in his heart for a man he saw as a father figure.

The Frenchman had already lost his dad when he was a child, so his coach’s death felt like another family member was taken from him.

“My first trainer died in 1998,” he recalls. “My first trainer cared for me like a son. He was like my father.

“When he died, I was young and I was shocked. I will never forget him. He taught me both life and Muay Thai.”

Thankfully, Zatout had another trainer from the same gym who began to look after him. If not for him, the youngster is unsure whether he would have continued to pursue his passion.

World Title Glory

Zatout’s career started in his homeland, where he was a three-time French Muay Thai Champion, as well as a European Muay Thai Champion.

From there, “Diamond Heart” ventured out into new promotions across the globe, and that is when he really started to rack up titles.

He won an ISKA Championship and a Victory Kickboxing Championship, but his proudest accomplishment was becoming a WBC World Champion in 2013.

That achievement was even sweeter because in claiming the World Title, Zatout avenged a loss to his old foe, Singmanee Kaewsamrit, who’d beaten him a year earlier in a tournament.

“I won the title in a rematch,” he gushes. “Everybody came to watch – all the best Thai fighters and all the best French fighters.”

Now, Zatout wants to add a ONE World Title to his trophy case.

Though he fell to future ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao in October 2018, he rebounded in a major way.

Zatout defeated former ONE World Title contender Han Zi Hao this past January, and now, he plans to make it two in a row when he faces Pinto in a kickboxing clash at ONE: NO SURRENDER II on 14 August.

A victory would undoubtedly push him even closer to another World Championship belt.

Read more: The Best Performances From The Stars Of ONE: NO SURRENDER II

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