Tayfun “Turbine” Ozcan is one of the most exciting kickboxers on the planet, and fans will soon witness his talents on the global stage.
The Turkish-Dutch star will make his ONE Super Series debut against legendary Thai striker Sitthichai “Killer Kid” Sitsongpeenong in a featherweight contest at ONE: BATTLEGROUND in Singapore on Friday, 30 July.
Growing up, “Turbine” never expected to reach millions of viewers on such a massive worldwide platform, but his humble beginnings keep motivating him to aim higher.
Learn all about Ozcan’s incredible journey before his first appearance in The Home Of Martial Arts.
‘I Needed To Make Something Of My Life’
The young Ozcan did not have an easy start to his life. Born to Turkish parents in Tilburg, Netherlands, he was the second-oldest of seven siblings, and money was tight after his father’s alcohol issues separated the family.
“My mom and dad divorced at a young age. It was difficult because my mom only had a minimum wage job so, raising seven children, it was very hard for us to grow up at that time,” Ozcan says.
“I had to take care of my little brothers and sisters. I couldn’t go to school. I always had to be working. l had no education. I quit school at the age of 17 because of all the things going on in my life.”
With no male role model to show him the way, it’s no surprise that “Turbine” ran into some problems as he sought to deal with all the pressure on his young shoulders.
As he toiled away at an array of jobs, including cleaning and working in stores, his mother’s time was taken up with five younger siblings. As a result, Ozcan found other ways to get noticed.
“I was a very difficult person also. I didn’t get the attention that I needed as a child,” he says.
“Because of the seven children, you didn’t get attention, so you were always seeking negative attention from the outside.”
But while “Turbine” ran into trouble, he was still worried about disappointing his mother, who always worked hard to provide for the family.
“She said one time when I was kicked out of school, ‘Tayfun, I hope you make something out of your life, or else everything I did for you guys is for nothing,’’ Ozcan recalls.
“That motivated me so much. I needed to make something of my life.”
A Better Way
Fortunately for the young “Turbine,” a local community group started to offer sports for disadvantaged youths, and that helped him focus on something productive.
Though he tried different activities, Ozcan’s life changed forever at the age of 13 when he discovered the world of combat sports.
“They took us to soccer, golf, and one time they took us to kickboxing. It was a real kickboxing gym. There was a pro fighter [there training],” he recalls. “I fell immediately in love because of how the teacher gave the lesson, how disciplined it was, and how the guys trained.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is for me.’ This was what I needed to [use] my energy on, get me focused, give me discipline, and get me back to the good road.”
It wasn’t a straight line to success from there, however. Financial problems once again reared their head when Ozcan wanted to continue his martial arts journey, but his prodigious talent opened up a new opportunity.
“I started training for three months, but I couldn’t pay the training fee. They were very hard on me because I couldn’t pay,” he says.
“A friend of mine one time said to me, ‘Tayfun, come to my gym, spar with me.’ And I went to go spar. It was a Turkish trainer at the time. I kicked [my friend’s butt] in sparring, and he said, ‘How long have you been training? I cannot believe you’ve been training for four months.’
“His pupils were training for two years, and I was beating them up, He couldn’t believe it. After, he said to me, ‘If you want, please stay at my gym. You don’t have to pay a training fee. You get all your stuff. Just train at my gym.’”
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Making His Mother Proud
Ozcan began competing as an amateur at 14, became a semi-professional at 16, and made his pro debut at 18.
As “Turbine” continued his blistering upward trajectory, a specific conversation with his mother fueled his fire whenever times got tough.
“One time I asked her, ‘Mom, are you happy?’ I asked her because she was always cleaning, always making food. She said, ‘No, I am not happy, but I hope to see you guys happy one day,’” Ozcan says.
“That’s what motivates me. When I have hardships in life, I think about that moment because she was offering her life. She was not happy, [she was] very unhappy. But she did everything for us. That’s the best motivation you can get.”
Ozcan’s reputation grew — now for the right reasons — and one of his happiest moments came when word of his success reached his mother’s ears.
“In my city, there were two promoters. They were very big and they made good fights. All the fighters were fighting in my city. So at that time, I was winning huge fights. I was making a name for myself,” he offers.
“And one time, some people asked my mom, ‘Does your son do kickboxing?’ My mom said, ‘Yes.’ And one lady said, ‘Wow, your son is very good.’ And then my mom came home and she told me this.
“She said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you were that good.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I train very, very hard so I can do something big.’ That was the first moment she loved my kickboxing career.”
In the years since then, “Turbine’s” success has helped him give back. Most importantly, his mother is no longer just sacrificing herself to provide happiness for her children – she’s enjoying her own life, too.
“I asked her [now] and she said, ‘I’m very happy.’ We do a lot of things together. She lives now. She goes into the city to get lunch. She’s enjoying her life. It makes me feel very good,” Ozcan says.
“And now she’s so proud. Every time I speak to her, and I speak to her daily, she says, ‘I’m very proud of you.’”
Aiming For The Top
With a phenomenal 83-8-3 career record and a slew of championship belts, “Turbine” has already achieved a huge amount in the kickboxing world. But rising to the top in ONE Super Series would truly take him to the next level.
The ability to provide for his family — including his own son — is his main priority, and by competing on the biggest global platform for martial arts, the 29-year-old has the chance to give them more than he’d ever dreamed of.
“When I signed with ONE Championship, I changed my whole team as it was time to step out of the comfort zone because of all the good fighters here,” Ozcan says.
“I think the featherweight division is the biggest and best kickboxing division that has ever existed. This is the champion’s league, and I am very proud to be a part of it.
“My goal is to beat [Giorgio] Petrosyan and be a ONE World Champion.”