Throwback Thursday: The Belt That Changed Keanu Subba’s Life

Apr 2, 2020

Keanu Subba‘s journey to the top of his country’s amateur mixed martial arts scene set the stage for him to become one of Malaysia’s brightest stars.

Seven years ago, the Monarchy MMA representative blasted through the competition to win the MIMMA Featherweight Title and cement his position as the nation’s top prospect in the weight class.

“It was one of the first mixed martial arts tournaments in Malaysia, and guys from all over the states tried to compete,” he recalls.

“The level then was not as high as it is now, but in my division, the guys had experience in different styles. It was cool. I won with four first-round finishes to get to the final.”

Posted by Keanu Subba on Monday, October 5, 2015

After getting through the original tryouts, Subba stormed his way through the field. He defeated rivals in the ladder match, quarterfinals, and semifinals to earn his spot in the MIMMA Grand Finals on 15 June 2013.

The Kuala Lumpur native squared off against Muhammed Ikram, who had also dominated the opposition to make it to the featherweight tournament finale. Nonetheless, Subba was confident in his preparation and excited to perform in his biggest match yet.

“I was really excited about the [MIMMA Grand Finals] because it would have been my first belt, and if you win the belt in that tournament, it solidifies you as the best in Malaysia. That was a pretty big thing back then,” he offers.

“Nerves are always a part of the fight game, but that night, I felt like I was really calm. I think it was just the belief that, back then, our team was training harder than everyone else. I knew that my opponent wasn’t going to be as prepared as me.

“I had [former ONE Championship athletes] Adam Kayoom and Roger Huerta in my corner, which was pretty cool. They had both fought in the big shows back then, and they really fired me up.”

When the bell sounded, Subba wasted no time in pressuring Ikram. Ultimately, he kept his streak of first-round stoppages alive with a crushing TKO at the 60-second mark of the contest.

“I can’t even remember what the plan was – maybe it was to take him down. But I got a knockout,” he says with a chuckle.

“I landed the overhand right that hurt him, and then I went for the finish. It felt good to stop him like that because I was the youngest guy in the tournament. I was only 17, so it was a great moment.”

Despite his incredible success and status as Malaysia’s best amateur featherweight, Subba knew there was still plenty of room for improvement.

With lofty ambitions, he used the victory and title belt as a catalyst to develop his skills even further.

Posted by Keanu Subba on Monday, October 5, 2015

“After winning, I didn’t really celebrate. I wanted to go to the next step, which was to become a pro. I just felt that I needed to get better,” he reveals.

“Right after winning that tournament, I went to Tiger Muay Thai to train with the high-level guys there.

“I was a big fish in a small pond in Malaysia, and I didn’t like that. I needed to get beaten up by better guys to improve, and that’s what I did for six months.”

Subba’s egoless quest for improvement paid dividends in the long run.

He defended his MIMMA Featherweight Title the following year, scored another first-round TKO, and then received the call to join ONE Championship.

Throw back to winning the first MIMMA featherweight belt with my bro and first MMA and wrestling coach Matthew…

Posted by Keanu Subba on Thursday, February 16, 2017

Since then, Subba has earned six first-round stoppage wins on the global stage and, at just 25 years old, he is one of the top talents in Malaysian mixed martial arts history.

Looking back at his MIMMA Featherweight Championship victory, he believes it set him up for success and taught him the lessons he needed to learn in order to compete at the next level.

“The tournament was a good thing and a learning curve for me to get better,” the Monarchy MMA product acknowledges. “I learned a lot about the importance of quality training.”

Read more: Throwback Thursday: Rocky Ogden’s First Match In Thailand


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