Pieter “The Archangel” Buist was raised on the doorstep of crime, drugs, and violence in the Netherlands, but through martial arts, he escaped life on the edge of society,
The Dutchman’s journey was not easy, but through faith, self-belief, and determination, he has made it to ONE Championship, where he has dreams of winning World Championship gold.
Ahead of the biggest match of his career against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang at ONE: FIRE AND FURY this Friday, 31 January, “The Archangel” reveals how he made it out of one of the toughest neighborhoods in Holland to become a star in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Taking The High Ground
Buist is the second of three brothers who raised by his mother in the southern Dutch city of Breda.
“My mother raised us alone because she separated from my father when I was 3 years old, so it was tough for her,” admits the 31-year-old.
“We lived in a rough neighborhood, and she had three boys that she had to bring up on welfare so we didn’t have much, but we were happy and my mother tried her best.
“Where we were was the second-most dangerous neighborhood in Holland at the time, criminality was all around us, there was lots of drugs and violence.”
The young Buist was uninterested at school. He didn’t believe it was the best fit for his way of learning and, to him, it seemed like there were only two possible routes out.
“You looked around, and the guys with the best cars and money were all of the drug dealers, and it would have been easy to go down that way,” he adds.
“Every time that route looked good, something happened like a warning to me – friends got kidnapped, stabbed, or shot – so it always kept me away.
“We always had hope because we had Golden Glory [kickboxing gym] with the biggest fighters in the world training in my city, just a couple of minutes from my house.”
Making Fantasy A Reality
Buist fell in love with martial arts as a fan of Dragon Ball Z and Bruce Lee movies, but he also started to train because he thought it was necessary for self-preservation in his unforgiving neighborhood.
“Everybody was doing fighting sports. You needed to defend yourself. I started with judo when I was 6 and I thought it was fun, but it didn’t satisfy my needs,” he offers.
His eureka moment came when he turned on the TV to watch a kung fu movie, but instead stumbled upon the highest level of kickboxing competition and one of his countrymen winning the sport’s top prize.
“I saw Ernesto Hoost winning the K-1 Grand Prix over Jerome Le Banner and I thought, ‘Wow, look how much money he made,’ and I thought that was my calling,” Buist adds.
“After judo, I went to a kickboxing school when I was around 12. I went to the beginners’ class, and the coach came to me and said I was really good, and that I could do the pro class right away. I got my ass kicked but I really enjoyed it, and it was the first time in my life I ever felt like I was good at something.”
Within three weeks, Buist competed in his first bout and won. Though he had no money for gym fees, he paid his dues by working for the owner at weekends.
He went on to have around 100 kickboxing bouts before he decided to concentrate on mixed martial arts. With a background in grappling and striking arts, he was a natural.
“I always wanted to do mixed martial arts because I was a big fan of Pride and Genki Sudo, but my trainer said I needed to learn the stand-up game first,” recalls “The Archangel.”
“I started to focus on mixed martial arts. I liked it because there was always a way to prevail, even if you weren’t the biggest or most athletic fighter.”
Finding Light In The Dark
Despite his talent, it took a major downturn in his life for Buist to focus on his goals.
Buist was forced to leave the family home so his mother could still receive the support she needed to look after his younger brother, and he was left with nowhere else to go.
“There were financial problems and I had to leave the house when I was 22, so I slept on the streets for a couple of weeks, and then I slept at friends’ houses or in the park,” he explains.
“I felt ashamed, to be honest. I had nothing, just debts. I didn’t have an education, my fight career at that point was not that great, my future was not bright.”
However, he had an epiphany that put him back on course.
“I remember when I was at my girlfriend’s place. I was sitting on her bed crying and I really felt something,” he continues.
“I am a religious guy, so I really felt that God said to me, ‘Now you see there are only two sides, left side and right side, wrong or good. You could choose to become the biggest criminal in the world, or you can become the greatest fighter in the world.’
“I wanted to be a great fighter and a good person, to go the hard road. Right there I made a plan – like all successful people – with certain steps, and I made them happen.
“I was totally focused. I finished school, I got a job as a garbage man, I paid my debts, and I found my own place to live. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of setbacks, but I truly felt that God had my back, and I always believed in myself.”
Reaping The Rewards
Buist had to work 40 hours a week alongside his intense training schedule, but he never slipped off track again, even when things were tough.
He continued to work hard to evolve as an athlete, which led to success, and the ability to reduce the time he spent at his day-job to focus on his martial arts career.
“Sometimes I was like, ‘Okay, maybe this is it for me, I’ll settle with this job,’ but I was never truly happy,” he explains.
“So I kept training one or two times a day. It was really hard and sometimes I just wondered how I was going to do it, but the first time I became a European champion, I started to work less, and train more.”
“The Archangel” is pleased with what he has accomplished so far, but he has a lot left to achieve before he is satisfied.
“I have worked very hard to be here and I gave up everything for it. Yes, it’s good, but we’re not there yet, so I’m happy and blessed, but for me, I feel like this is just the beginning,” he says.
“I will start celebrating when I’m 40 and I’ve achieved everything I wanted, and financially my family is good, and my team is good. Then I can sit back, celebrate, look back and say, ‘Well, I’m a badass!’”