Courtesy One FC
Arnaud Lepont moved from his native Western Europe to Southeast Asia in order to fulfill his potential as a mixed martial artist.
His fight on Saturday night will take place in his sixth country in as many years. His opponent will be the eighth nationality he's faced in 11 fights.
And he's hoping that all this globetrotting will pay off in making him a household name to MMA fans around the world.
The 32-year-old native of Normandie, France known as "The Game" will step into by far the biggest spotlight of his career this weekend, as he meets Japanese veteran Shinya Aoki in the super fight main event of One FC 6 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"This is the opportunity I've been waiting for," Lepont said in a telephone interview from Phuket, Thailand. "This is what I've wanted. I've been winning my fights, but when I finish a fighter like Shinya Aoki, everyone will know about ‘The Game.' and who he is"
Lepont began his career on the European circuit, where he immediately showed off a deft ground game, scoring four of his first five career wins via first-round submission.
But Lepont knew he was only going to get so far in his career by staying put, particularly with his homeland adopting strict rules on MMA which have all but choked off the sport.
"It's very tough to be an MMA fighter in France right now," Lepont said. "I knew if I was going to have a chance at making it to the top of the sport, I was going to have to leave home. It was actually an easy decision to make."
So the lightweight prospect picked up and moved to Southeast Asia a couple years back, eventually setting in with the Muay Fit fight team in Malaysia.
There, Lepont noticeably improved on his striking, turning himself into a more well-rounded fighter. He's continued to rack up submission victories, but is now using impressive displays of power to help set up his finishes. In his most recent victory, at One FC 4 on June 23, he rallied to defeat Brian Choi with a third-round rear-naked choke.
Which leads us to the fight against Aoki. On paper, this looks like a simple submission artist vs. submission artist bout, with the Japanese legend earning 19 of his 30 career victories via tapout, and Lepont doing the same in seven of nine.
"I'd like to take it to the ground and beat him there, sure," said Lepont. "But is he willing to go toe-to-toe with me? What happens if I hit him with a big right? Then I might have to decide if I continue to lay it on him until the ref stops it or whether to go in and submit him. Let's see if he's ready for that."
In recent days, Aoki has made headlines for essentially calling Lepont a punk. Our phone conversation happened before this went down, but even at that time, there was a bit of an edge in Lepont's voice regarding a foe he once considered his idol.
"He's cocky," said Lepont. "He has it in his head that he can beat anyone on the ground. I hope he takes it to the ground with me, let's see how it turns out for him. Aoki was my idol, he was the reason why I got into the sport, but that all comes to an end when we meet on Oct. 6."
There's no title on the line in the main event of One FC 6, which will air on pay-per-view television in the United States and is also available online. But Lepont insists that doesn't matter.
"I don't need this fight to be about a belt. This is bigger than a belt to me. To beat Shinya Aoki, in and of itself, that is my trophy."
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