Superstars Reveal Their Childhood Favorites On World Book Day

Japanese mixed martial artist Yoshitaka Naito walks to the Circle dressed as Nobita

Books are timeless, and their profound effect on young people can also last for a lifetime.

Knowingly or otherwise, the literature children are exposed to not only helps them with their literacy, but it also helps to teach them lessons about the world around them in ways that they can digest.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) promotes World Book Day on 23 April to celebrate the magic that mere words on paper can create.

Some of ONE Championship’s elite martial artists reflect on the books that stand out from their childhoods and tell us why these stories captured their imaginations at a young age.

Yushin OkamiThe Three Little Pigs

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“I liked The Three Little Pigs because I was impressed by the youngest pig, who is very courageous, made a lot of effort, and, in the end, beat the scary wolf.

“When I was in kindergarten, my father read the book to me. It taught me to make an effort, be courageous, be disciplined, and be kind. I thought keeping those four points would enable me to overcome difficulties as a kid and it made the foundation for the way I am today.

“The youngest pig saved the other lazy pigs from the wolf by using sincerity and intelligence. I came to like the youngest pig because he had courage and kindness.”

Gianni SubbaThe Old Man And The Sea 

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“It is a short story, but I loved the context behind it. It’s about this old man who has always wanted to catch a big fish, and when the day finally arrives, he battles with this fish nonstop.

“Eventually, when he manages to reel in the fish, it gets eaten by sharks. At the end of the day, he was happy with the battle. I think that battle was what he wanted.

“What the book teaches you is that, even though there are challenges ahead, what you learn from those challenges will change you.”

Troy WorthenArtemis Fowl

Evolve MMA's Troy Worthen steps into the Singapore Indoor Stadium for his bout with Mark Fairtex Abelardo

“Honestly, I am not a reader. I hated books when I was younger, but I did read one book from front to back when I was a kid. I found it in the library one time and I started reading it because we had to read a book for an assignment. It ended up being the one I picked and I got lucky. It’s a book called Artemis Fowl.

“Basically, it’s about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind. It’s got a little fantasy where he goes into this fairy realm. He has an awesome butler, almost like a Batman-esque butler. It was his little sidekick, and it goes and kidnaps this fairy and tries to hold it for ransom. But there’s this idea behind the book where the kid doesn’t always do things the right way. His intentions aren’t always the greatest, but he has a good heart.

“At the end of the book, he ends up releasing the fairy and getting his mom healthy. She had a big issue, was in bad health, and he couldn’t fix it with money. So, at the end of the day, he might not do things the right way, but he always had a good heart and good intentions.

“I think that resonated with me as a kid because I was a little bit of a troublemaker, and I got into some stuff of my own. But I was just trying to find my place in the world and I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. I always had good intentions. I think that resonated with me a bit, and I think that’s probably why I stuck around and read all 500 pages of it.”

Nyrene CrowleyThe Paper Bag Princess

New Zealand's Nyrene Crowley makes her ONE debut

“One of the books that I remember quite well was The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. I remember reading it in primary school, and it was the very first book I was ever exposed to where the princess was put in a position to save the prince that she was supposed to marry at the time.

“I don’t think I really realized what was going on, but I really liked that the girl was put in a position to save the guy for once. You always come across these quite traditional books where it was always the prince saving the princess.

“A little bit further on in the book, she actually saves him, and he basically says she [does not look good], and to come and save him when she looks better. So she says, ‘Stuff you, I don’t want to marry you anymore!’

“I think that’s why I liked it. She was real. She was running around the world trying to save this guy in a paper bag because the dragon had burned down the castle and it was the only clothing she was able to wear. Just thinking back on it now, even just looking at the cover, brings back so many memories.”

Aleksi ToivonenMy Brother, Lionheart

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“One book that stuck in my mind was probably My Brother, Lionheart. It’s a Swedish book originally from back when I was a kid. It might have been something I remembered in part because the story is a bit tragic.

“It starts with two brothers who are children, one is really sick and they both die – one in a fire and the other one because of the disease. Then in the afterlife, they go on a great adventure, kind of like The Lord Of The Rings, but more for children.

“It’s very tragic in a sense, but then they have these happy adventures, so it’s just stuck in my mind for some reason.”

Hiroaki SuzukiThe Spider’s Thread

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The Spider’s Thread by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. I remember the story. The main character could have gone to either heaven or hell depending on his attitude.

“I always remind myself that if I get picked [for salvation], I won’t take it for granted and won’t be egotistical. Reflecting on the way of living [that I learned from] The Spider’s Thread, I try not to step out from humanity.”

Iman BarlowHairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy

Kicboxing and Muay Thai World CHampion Iman Barlow in ONE Championship

“My favorite book was Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy.

“My mum and I used to read it together, and I loved how it rhymed and spoke about all the different dogs. This is the only one I would read over and over again, even though I knew the outcome.

“It was a special time to have with my mum reading as we were always very busy – her teaching [Muay Thai] and training for fights, and I would also be training. So this was a time where I would have no worries. [I would] just be in bed, and be a kid.”

Radeem RahmanPuss In Boots

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“During my childhood, I read a lot of fairytale books. I read Puss In Boots a lot. I can keep repeating the story all the time, just like in those days.

“I used to have cats at home, so when I was a kid, I was really curious, like, ‘Can humans really talk to animals?’ When I was small, I always tried to talk to my cats. Then I saw the books about Puss In Boots.

“It was about cats, and they could sing and talk, so I read about it because it was fascinating to imagine my cat doing that, and [I wondered] whether it was easy to train them.

“When the movie actually came out, it was kind of nice to see a cartoon.”

Yoshitaka NaitoMy Father’s Dragon

Yoshitaka Nobita Naito with the win

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I think I read it when I was an elementary school kid. I guess my parents recommended it to me.

“It made me feel like going to various places, and that exciting emotion still has an influence on me. I think I dreamed about riding dragons.”

Read more: Edward Kelly’s Greatest Source Of Inspiration

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