‘It’s Never Been About Money’ – How Reinier De Ridder’s Love Of Martial Arts Motivates Him To Run An Elite Gym

Tye Ruotolo Reinier de Ridder ONE Fight Night 10 33

Reigning ONE Middleweight MMA World Champion Reinier de Ridder is living the martial arts dream.

“The Dutch Knight” will soon defend his gold in a hotly anticipated rematch against current heavyweight and light heavyweight MMA kingpin Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin in the main event of ONE 166: Qatar at the Lusail Sports Arena on March 1.

That massive World Champion vs. World Champion showdown will come 15 months after the Russian handed De Ridder the first loss of his professional career, capturing the ONE Light Heavyweight MMA World Title in the process.

Despite that devastating defeat, the 33-year-old Dutchman has found a sense of stability and comfort in the gym he’s owned and operated for the past seven years alongside his coach, training partner, and close friend, Harun Ozkan.

De Ridder spoke to onefc.com about his rapidly expanding academy, Combat Brothers:

“Me and my brother, my buddy, we’ve been doing this together for so long. We’ve always shared blood, sweat, and tears on the mats. He helps me through all of my fights, so that’s where it started.”

After operating in a shared space with a CrossFit gym for several years, Combat Brothers is now a standalone facility bustling with students from all walks of life – from kids to white-collar workers to elite professional fighters.

While De Ridder necessarily spends much of his time focused on his own training, he says the most rewarding aspect of running Combat Brothers has been spreading his passion for martial arts to others:

“I don’t get the chance to teach every day because it’s a lot of work. But I teach a couple days a week, and it’s always very fulfilling to see that normal people, not people who make a living out of this, who devote their life to fighting, but normal people who are lawyers, or they have a normal job, a normal life.

“They come in and they try to kill each other on the mats. It’s all very cool to me. It gives me a lot of energy to see them when they go at it.”

Naturally, running a successful gym and maintaining his status as one of the planet’s top pound-for-pound mixed martial artists is far from easy, but “The Dutch Knight” wouldn’t have it any other way.

He says that Combat Brothers reflects his love for martial arts and gives him the chance to live his dream lifestyle – spending every day on the mats training, learning, and improving:

“It wasn’t ever too challenging, to be honest. All the people who teach for us are good friends who’ve been with us for years prior. Me and my buddy will always figure it out together. It’s never been about money. It’s just a thing we love. 

“We would be on the mats every day, and we would host the gym like this every day even if we wouldn’t be making money there. It’s just something we love.”

‘Training With World-Class Guys In My Backyard’

As much as Reinier de Ridder loves owning a gym and watching hobbyists learn martial arts, Combat Brothers is still a world-class training facility with top-notch fighters walking through the doors every day.

Located in Breda, Netherlands, the gym has become a hotspot for elite European MMA fighters, and that gives De Ridder a chance to welcome those competitors into his space.

The ONE Middleweight MMA World Champion explained:

“So all the good guys, once they reach a certain level, they hit us up and they come to us. So we have a lot of already high-level pros who will join us at a later stage in their career.

“But we have a couple of guys coming up now fighting their first few pro fights, as well, who really started with us. And they are doing pretty good, as well. So yeah, it’s cool.”

In order to attract the best training partners possible, De Ridder has instituted an open-door policy at Combat Brothers.

This means he doesn’t have to go anywhere for world-class training, as the region’s most talented fighters find their way to Breda.

“The Dutch Knight” added:

“It’s cool that we have these times that we train with the pros. Everybody’s welcome. So whatever gym you represent, doesn’t matter. Just come and train with us.

“And it’s cool that I can have my training with world-class guys in my backyard, so I don’t have to travel. But I can get all the good guys coming to me, which is very nice.”

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