‘I Wasn’t Ready To Die’ – Nico Carrillo Survived Near-Death Experience To Reach The Top

Nong O Hama Nico Carrillo ONE Friday Fights 46 2

Nico “King of the North” Carrillo is another shining example of how martial arts can transform a young person’s prospects in life. 

The Scottish star is now the #1-ranked contender in ONE’s bantamweight Muay Thai ranks, and he’s hoping to punch his ticket to a World Title shot with a win over Saemapetch Fairtex at ONE Fight Night 23 on Prime Video on Friday, July 5. 

However, things could have been very different for Carrillo if he hadn’t found Muay Thai and had his outlook changed by a near-death experience. 

Ahead of his return at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, learn how “King of the North” battled his way to a better future. 

Growing Up In Glasgow 

Carrillo was born and raised in the Scotstoun area of Glasgow, Scotland, which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country. 

Things weren’t easy for his single mother, but she did her best to make sure her young son didn’t have to feel the hardship of life. 

Carrillo explained: 

“It was really rough where I grew up. I live in a nicer area now about 15 minutes down the road, but I’m never too far from my roots. 

“I can’t complain too much about my upbringing. I didn’t have a dad. My mum brought me up with my grandma. They brought me up the best they could with what they had. I always had cooked meals on the table and a place to go home to.” 

Carrillo’s mother knew that life on the streets in their area could lead to a negative outcome, so she did her best to keep her son on the straight and narrow. 

Although he still found ways to make trouble as many young boys do, it’s likely her discipline prevented him from going any further off the tracks. 

The Scottish fighter said:  

“Although we lived in a right naughty place, my mum was probably more strict on me than all of my friends’ mothers and parents put together.  

“I still got up to some stuff, but my mum was very strict. I was always having to go home earlier than all my pals until I started getting away with things out and about a bit more.” 

‘Muay Thai Definitely Saved My Life’ 

Carrillo didn’t have a lifelong obsession with combat, preferring soccer as a youth, but he had dabbled in boxing and found an innate affinity with it.  

Naturally heavy-handed, he could get the better of more experienced people in the gym, though it never captured his attention fully. 

He recalled: 

“My first exposure was when I was 12. I started going to a boxing gym, albeit very inconsistently. I’d maybe been 10 times over the space of two years. But any time I went, they would put me in sparring and I would always get the better of some lads. 

“I think I was just quite gifted with my hands at a young age. But I never took it seriously. At the time I was playing football, that was my first love. I’d played that all my life, but I felt combat sports creeping its way into my life more and more.” 

At 15, “King of the North” found Muay Thai and it instantly felt different.  

From his first class, Carrillo knew this was the sport for him. He got the bug and spent most of his free time in the gym, away from most of the trouble outside of those four walls. 

He said: 

“I remember the smell and I remember the atmosphere. I remember the buzz I got after training. That day, I said to myself, this is what I wanna do with the rest of my life. 

“I fell in love with it more and more every day and had no trouble being consistent compared to boxing. 

“Muay Thai definitely saved my life. It put me on a different trajectory than all my friends at the time. If I was still hanging about with certain people, I often wonder where I would be or how I would’ve turned out.” 

A Near-Death Experience 

While Carrillo’s competitive career in Muay Thai kept him out of trouble on the streets, he still found time to hang out with his friends like any young man in his teens.  

However, he got a stark reminder of how quickly things can go downhill if he let himself get caught up in it.  

Despite trying to do the right thing by standing up for his friends on a night out when he was 18, “King of the North” felt the almost fatal repercussions of revenge when he was stabbed in a retaliation attack. 

Carrillo revealed: 

“I was just out with my friends like every lad would be. We were in a club and a guy was troublemaking, picking a fight with some of my younger friends. He didn’t know I was trained and could defend myself. I beat him up. A few months later, I bumped into him again and picked up where it left off. 

“He pulled out an army knife and stabbed me before I knew it. I looked down and there was a waterfall of blood coming out of my leg. Three seconds had gone by and there must’ve been a liter of blood out of me on the floor.  

“I got help from people and was rushed to the hospital. But as I was on my way there, my lights were shutting out on me. I remember every time I closed my eyes, I felt warm and cozy and tired. 

“The next thing I knew I got a big slap across the face from the person I was with, telling me to stay awake. So I think I must’ve been dying because I felt peaceful every time I closed my eyes.” 

As well as the literal slap in the face, this was a metaphorical one too for the young man.  

Carrillo knows he could have perished on the street or bled out on his way to the hospital, and he realized that it was never worth it to get involved in violence outside of the ring.  

It helped him to zone in on what truly mattered and made him even more dedicated to his path in Muay Thai. 

“King of the North” said: 

“To this day, it is by far the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Because at that point I knew it was happening and I knew I wasn’t ready to die. 

“All I could think about were two things: My fiancee because she wasn’t there, so I was telling the person I was with to tell my missus that I love her. And the other thing was that I hadn’t achieved anything that I wanted to yet. I was thinking of those on rotation. 

“It definitely changed me. I never got myself into another situation like that. I’ve been in many situations where I could have stayed and fought, but it’s better to walk away now. It totally changed my perception on ego and fighting with people.” 

Ready To Achieve Greatness 

Carrillo was already having massive amounts of success in his Muay Thai career, winning multiple titles in the amateur ranks and competing professionally in his trips to Thailand.  

However, following his brush with death and the single-mindedness it gave him, the Glasgow native rocketed through the ranks to finally earn himself the step up to the big leagues.  

“King of the North” always felt greatness was his calling, and when the chance came to compete in ONE, he left behind his career as an electrician to make it a reality. 

Now with the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title within touching distance, he’s close to realizing what he believes is his destiny. 

Carrillo said: 

“The reason I quit my job was because I just felt I was destined for more. I believe everything is written already. And for me, I was never meant to be a 9-to-5 guy. I was put here to do something spectacular. 

“I was meant to be my own person and Muay Thai is the epitome of that. Every decision is on me.” 

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