The Dutch-Moroccan – who will compete for the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title against Roman Kryklia at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS – was hot-headed and often got involved in confrontations.
He got expelled from school and his prospects did not look good, but he found a more positive way to channel his aggression through martial arts. When he began kickboxing, he harnessed his combative nature to develop a relentless style that has taken him to the top.
“I had a short temper. If somebody spoke to me in a different kind of way, I always started a fight,” Khbabez explains.
“In school, I was always fighting with classmates if they said something that I didn’t like. They kicked me out. When that happened, I knew I had to make the right choices, so I started doing kickboxing.”
“The Tank” had tried his hand at boxing, but that did not help him to change his ways and temper his heated behavior.
However, a friend told him to try classes at a kickboxing gym when he was 14, and that fresh environment worked wonders.
“In my time in boxing, I wasn’t focused and disciplined enough so I changed to kickboxing,” says Khbabez.
“Kickboxing was different – I could find myself more in the world of kickboxing. I found my focus and discipline again, and it helped me to calm down and take care of my behavior. I have been in the sport ever since.”
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“The Tank” was now focused on a new goal, and was committed to becoming the best. Not even the most testing experiences were enough to derail him.
The man from The Hague blasted his way through the ranks in Europe to become a two-time SUPERKOMBAT Heavyweight World Champion.
That brought him to the global stage, where he has emerged as one of the most exciting and successful athletes in ONE Super Series — with a perfect 4-0 record that earned him his shot at gold.
Now, he is light-years away from the person he was in his troublesome teen years, and he does not need to look far to see how his life could have turned out if he did not change his ways.
When he looks around his hometown, he sees people who walked down a darker road, as well as a way of life he is glad to have avoided. It reaffirms the choices he made and reminds him about the fate he could have experienced if it was not for his hard work and determination.
“I have met old friends or people from the past and they have chosen the wrong path in life, while I was improving and being dedicated to my sports and training,” says “The Tank.”
“They made me realize that I have been a better person and changed to create a better future for myself.”
Khbabez is already an inspiration to many young people in the Netherlands, but if he can win his rematch with Kryklia this Saturday, 16 November to become the first ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion, his influence and reputation will grow.
However, the 27-year-old would welcome that after his assignment at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing because he would love his story to help other youths in a similar situation.
“Take me as an example [of how to change your behavior]. If I can do it everybody can do it,” he asserts.
“There have been situations where things could get out of hand, but now I know better and walk away from it.
“I came from nothing and grew up in a bad neighborhood, but I have chosen my path and things have worked out in a positive way.”