Ognjen Topic has always been an artist at heart.
The 32-year old Muay Thai kickboxing stylist puts the majority of his focus on his martial arts pursuits.
However, it was not too long ago when his passion involved a different kind of art on a different kind of canvas.
After relocating to the United States from Serbia when he was 9, Topic was drawn to artistic endeavors such as oil painting, which led him to consider a career in a creative field while he was at high school.
“I have been drawing since I was a kid,” he says.
“I went to high school where they had a design program, and I actually wanted to do oil painting. But I had to make the right decision financially, because I know doing oil painting was going to be very difficult. So I stuck with design, and I got good at it.”
“I still love doing design, and that is a huge part of me. I am doing something art-related on a daily basis.”
Following graduation, the Serbian attended William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, where he turned his attention to graphic art and design.
At first, it was difficult adjusting from one style of art to another.
However, he remained committed to making the switch from oil painting, and before long, everything started to click.
“I liked the traditional art, but I had to transition into something more digital, so it was just learning the principles of design,” Topic explains.
“That was the most difficult thing – learning the principles of good design, and sticking to them. That is what I did, and I learned how to make things visually appealing.”
While he attended college, the Serbian also trained and competed in Muay Thai at North Jersey Muay Thai – something he kept secret from his parents.
Years later, a family member discovered a YouTube video of Topic competing in the ring and showed it to his father, which prompted him to stop talking to his son for four months.
Topic did not want to upset his parents, but nothing spoke to him the way martial arts did.
“[Design] was not really a big passion,” he says.
“I like doing it, but I am not crazy about art as I am about Muay Thai. Whenever I feel like drawing, I pull out a pad and a pencil, and I start drawing.
“I am the happiest when I am fighting, and training, and doing Muay Thai. Nothing else would make me this happy. It was the thing that I loved the most out of anything [I have done]. It is exactly what I wanted to do.”
The two fields may seem like polar opposites, but Topic claims his approach to graphic design has had some influence on the way he performs in the ring and cage.
“I think I get my minimalist style from design,” he explains. “I try to keep everything as simple as possible in my fighting, too. It looks as clean as possible, and it is straight to the point.
“My coach always says Muay Thai is like painting, except the canvas we use is in the ring.”
Although the Serbian occasionally still dabbles in his artistic pursuits, his focus is on his Muay Thai career in ONE Super Series, where he hopes to challenge for a World Title early next year.
Topic will always be an artist at heart, but nowadays, this striking Picasso is painting his masterpieces in the heat of battle.
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast