Arnaud Lepont is a French fighter with a 7-1 record who has been living and fighting in Asia for the past few years. After moving to Bangkok in 2011 he has rapidly become one of the stars of the recently formed DARE Championship and a name to watch in general.
In his first fight for DARE he blasted through top Malaysian fighter Jian Kai Chee in less than a minute and he will be back in action on January 7 when he takes on another top Thai fighter in Krzysztof Hajtalowicz.
Hajtalowicz, originally from Poland but now based in Chiang Mai, submitted the previously unbeaten Wiktor Svensson in the second round of his DARE debut and this clash is one of the most eagerly anticipated in Thai MMA history.
Lepont took time out from his training to talk to Fighters.com about the upcoming fights and his experiences of living and training in Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia:
When did you start learning martial arts and why?
I started martial arts when I was five years. As a boy I was rather exuberant with an overflow of energy. My father decided to enroll in karate classes to channel the overflow. This is the best decision that my father took me. I do not think I’d be where I am today a time had he not made this decision for me.
Why did you decide to fight MMA professionally?
After winning the French Pancrase Championship. I won my four fights by submission in the first round, one against a good friend from my own team who is now the champion of a high level promotion in France call KOC…I’m proud of him. I heard that it is doing good.
Winning this tournament was like the unlocking process to become professional. A couple of years later I faced the new French Pancrase Champion champion in a Shooto fight in Belgium and got the submission in the first round by triangle choke.
Was it difficult to find fights in Europe back in 2007?
Yes, for sure. First because MMA is still yet illegal in my own country of France and a year ago we were taking the road to fight in England, Germany…it was weird. People were looking at us like underground fighters…
Why did you move to Asia?
I did several years of “back and forth” and the more time passed, the more I longed to stay there. Life in Asia is very different but it suits me better. I initially started my gym in Vietnam. Unfortunately my associates had troubles with the law and I was included in their problems because my gym was under their license. I did nothing wrong but I was asked to leave the country.
I lost everything and many people I called “My Family” have turned their backs. I was fortunate to come across great people when I arrived in Thailand, there are just over a year ago. I went back to training and as fate would have it I ended up signing with DARE FC.
You train at a lot of different places, why is that?
Because I don’t believe in the superiority of one camp. I think that if you want to improve yourself and get better, as a fighter, you have to share experience. That’s why I train in 13Coins and Phuket Top Team in Thailand and MuayFit in Malaysia. And believe me, I feel I’m a way better fighter now.
How did you enjoy fighting for DARE? What did you think of the show?
I love DARE! I love the MC Jon Nutt who I think he’s one of the best in the business. Jussi (Jussi Saloranta, the promoter) put in his show something new that everybody was waiting for. It’s like watching an interactive video game. Fights are not enough to make a good show, everything is important and living the DARE experience is unique and epic.
Is it true you are moving to Malaysia soon, can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes. It’s true. My friend Paul Teo has the will to build the first professional MMA team in Malaysia and he will bring in it some of the best fighters in Asia like Eric Kelly, Isamu Himura, and Kai Chee. I am already 31 and you know, my time is now, I still have dreams as a fighter. I want a shot at one of the big show - ONE FC, DREAM, or the UFC!
You have spent a bit of time in Malaysia lately, who are the fighters to look out for there?
There is a lot of good fighters. Some of these guys will emerge and will become the next step of MMA in Malaysia. Guys, keep a eye on Peter Davis, Jian Kai Chee, Samir Mrabet, and Allamurad “Pretty Boy” Karayev.
What are your thoughts on your next opponent, Krzysztof Hajtalowicz?
Cris is a nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he is maybe the next big fighter to come out of Thailand. His ground is deadly and his will is tough to break. I hate to face someone I like. But I have to stop him now. He is improving every day. We gonna have a drink after the fight but in the cage, will be a war…
For people who aren’t familiar with DARE can you tell them a bit about how it is different from other MMA shows?
DARE thinks that the fights are only a part of the show. All has to be entertaining! It’s a real experience to live. Lights, sounds…all is done to blow your mind…The cream of MMA fighters of Thailand are there. Buy your ticket for January 7…if you like MMA, this is the place to be !
With a 7-1 pro record you are probably one of the top French welterweights, what are your ambitions as a fighter?
Thanks but there is a lot a really good fighter in France! Seydina Seck, Gary Kono, Gael Grimaud, and Jess Liaudin are the top of the basket of welterweight French division…but in the others, there is guys like Christophe Gauthierot, the Fernandez Brothers, the Schiavo brothers, Patrick Vallee, Bryan Rafik, Christian M’Pumbu, Cyrille Diabate, Greg Babene…
I fight because I love fighting. I don’t do it for money. If you do it for the paycheck, I think it’s better to stop and become teacher. I love a good brawl.
I wish at least a fight in ONE FC or DREAM or UFC…just one shot…for me and those who believe in me. And to finish my career I want to make my last fight in MMA rules in Paris, France in front of my friends.