One of the perks of being a world-class athlete is the ability to travel the world and experience new places, but those adventures don’t always go smoothly.
Whether it’s a cross-country drive or an international trip, there are a lot of moving parts and chances for things to go wrong.
Below, hear from ONE Championship’s mixed martial arts superstars as they share their craziest travel stories. Fortunately, they can all look back and laugh now that everything has turned out okay.
“When I went to Indonesia for ONE: FOR HONOR [in May 2019], I mistakenly drank tap water. I had poured the water into a bucket for training, but I forgot about it.
“Thirty minutes later, I had diarrhea. I had to throw out two pairs of underwear.
“When that happened, I really understood the advice we often hear in Japan: ‘Do not drink tap water abroad.’
“It’s natural to win a bout under normal circumstances, but that experience abroad made me realize that true strength as a fighter, and as a human, is to compete and win under different circumstances than we’re used to.
“So, I want to take part in more bouts outside of Japan. I think this is the best way to prove my strength.”
“When I went to Manila to fight Shinya Aoki [in July 2018], the turbulence on the airplane was scary. I hate flying anyway, but that flight was so bad. I was freaking out, and the lady about three seats up started to panic too.
“Every time the cabin crew came out to serve some food, they had to go back. That happened more than five times – again and again – so I thought it must be really bad.
“I was sitting next to Rika Ishige. She studied at the civil aviation school, so she knows about planes. She was the only hope I had. I was saying, ‘It’s so bad!’ But she said, ‘It’s fine,’ and just carried on sleeping. She didn’t care.
“I was also really scared because we were in the back of the plane and the shaking was worse there. But Rika said, ‘We are fine. We’re in the back of the plane. If it falls, we have the least chance of dying!’
“That was not good to have during my fight week against Shinya. It made me feel so ill that the doctor had to come and keep checking on me.”
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“When I traveled to Singapore for my ONE Championship debut match at ONE: CALL TO GREATNESS [in February 2019], I was almost not able to enter the country because I didn’t understand English.
“I didn’t know we needed to submit an arrival card at the airport. It was my first trip abroad in my entire life.
“I tried three times to go through the immigration speaking Japanese and simple English, and somehow I managed to get through in the end. I learned from this experience how to go through immigration!”
“I’ve had some pretty wild travels. I think it was my first-ever amateur title fight in mixed martial arts, and I pretty much had no idea what I was doing. I had no coach with me. It was me and my teammate, who was also fighting that night. We still had to cut weight and we had to drive six hours to the weigh-ins.
“We woke up and got a workout in together. We were completely dehydrated. We jumped in my truck and drove six hours with sweats on and plastic bags to get us sweating. We put the heater on in the car to blow hot air on us, so we were drenched in sweat, driving for six hours dehydrated.
“I don’t even know how I could see the road correctly – it was a wild experience. Once we got there, we had to go run a little bit just to make weight.
“I can’t say I would ever recommend traveling like that to anybody. I think my car seat was soaked for like three days. It felt like I had left my windows down and it rained inside.”
“I was taking a train to Narita International Airport to fly to the U.S. for a bout against Chael Sonnen [in October 2009]. It was early in the morning five days before the bout. I left my bag with my passport on the train when I got off…
“I noticed right after and tried to get it back, but the train had already left. I explained the situation to a station worker, and they checked the train car, but they were not able to find the bag. There was a huge possibility that I would not be able to fight. I had never heard of such a mistake, and I was so disappointed.
“At that moment, I was in a complete state of despair. If the fans knew that I had to cancel the bout due to the lost passport, I thought I would not be able to walk outside forever.
“When the night came, I was about to give up, but then I received a phone call from my mother. The station staff told her they had found my bag. I hurried to the station, and I found it! Although my iPad and game console had been stolen, I was able to get my passport back.
“Even though it was a day late, I was able to arrive in the United States, where my cornerman was waiting for me.
“I lost against Chael, but that bout gave me an opportunity to connect with him. He gave me marvelous experiences, such as training together in Portland and the chance to meet local people. If I was not able to find my passport, I would not have faced Chael or visited Portland.
“Thinking of those things, it makes me really scared, even now. But looking back, I can take it as a funny story.”
“When I got [to the United States to train] initially, I was just 16 and didn’t have a driver’s license because, in Singapore, you need to be 18.
“So for six months, I was riding my bicycle – going through the Louisiana streets on my way to and from the gym – and people were just looking at me with this big laundry bag like I’m homeless.
“I lived at the gym. Even for showers, I didn’t have a proper bathroom. I had to use a water hose. During the winter, it was so cold!”