The road of the modern-day warrior could be very turbulent, but fortunately, Reece “Lightning” McLaren has found the perfect partner to navigate the path with.
He steps back into the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix to face Danny “The King” Kingad in a semifinal match-up at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES, and this time around, the 27-year-old is armed with a renewed hunger, and an even bigger drive to succeed.
“I had my reasons why [I wanted to succeed] before. But now, I have even more reason why,” McLaren reveals ahead of his clash at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on Friday, 2 August.
The Australian submission specialist has found his “soulmate” Sarah, and his once solitary pursuit toward martial arts success has now become a partnership.
McLaren has sacrificed nearly everything to reach his goals, as he left his family, his friends, and his home behind.
In fact, things haven’t truly been the same since his family relocated from Christmas Island to mainland Australia following his high school graduation. But now, home is more than just a house or a piece of land — it’s a bond.
“I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,” he says.
“For me, nowhere has really ever been home since the island. I’ve moved here and there, but there’s something true in finding home in a person, and that’s where I am now.
“It’s something that I haven’t really had. I haven’t had a best friend in years, and to find someone that is your soulmate and your best friend is something special.”
McLaren had friends in the gym and good people around him, but his life revolved around his own pursuits. He was content with focusing all of his energy into his evolution as a mixed martial artist — or at least he thought he was.
However, when “Lightning” came across Sarah — a friend of a friend — on a dating app, he did not know just how much that swipe right would change his life. They arranged a first date, and the two instantly clicked.
“The first date was just fire. We had a lot of goals in common, and I think we both felt that we could support each other,” he recalls.
“It’s really weird. It’s like you almost know that something is missing, and when you find that something, it just makes sense.”
The Gold Coast resident initially downplayed his competitive career in The Home Of Martial Arts, but when Sarah showed her willingness to stand by his side in any pursuit, he found that it gave him even more clarity in his goals.
“She gives me so much more inspiration, drive, and motivation. I’m very lucky,” he continues. “She’s so supportive. It’s very special that I’ve got this sport, and being able to share it with special people makes it even more fulfilling.”
The upper echelon of ONE Championship’s flyweight division is packed with some of the best athletes in the world, and McLaren is among them. To reach its summit takes not just phenomenal skill, but also a strong will.
It can be arduous, and even the strongest want to quit. However, with his soulmate by his side, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt feels like he is better equipped to tackle any obstacle.
When the Aussie heads to the Philippine capital to square off against Kingad, he will not be fazed by his opponent’s home crowd because Sarah will be right there with him.
That will give him all the motivation he needs to keep pushing forward, especially if things were to get difficult inside the Circle.
“She is coming over to Manila, and she is going to get the full experience. I’m so stoked, I can’t wait,” he beams. “It has taken me a long time to find someone that gets it, and it’s just a pleasure to be able to share something like this with her.”