Despite a submission loss to Shinya Aoki at this month's ONE FC card, French phenom Arnaud Lepont has no regrets for taking his fight against "The Tobikan Judan" -- or the pre-fight hype he brought with it.
Be careful what you wish for.
Arnaud Lepont got his dream fight against Shinya Aoki, the one he begged Victor Cui to give him, but it didn't turn out quite like the Frenchman might have imagined. At ONE FC: 'Rise of Lions' the Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) legend left him unconscious on the canvas after submitting him in a matter of seconds.
Lepont had fallen short at the final hurdle, his dream had gone sour, but he is adamant that the story does not end here. After going from being a little known contender, albeit one with a promising record, to becoming one of the more recognizable fighters in South East Asia in the space of just a year, he says he has 'no regrets' about stepping up to take on "The Tobikan Judan."
The charismatic Frenchman has become as renowned for his antics outside the cage as his 9-2 record inside it. Fans in Singapore were amused when he turned up to the weigh in with a 'Beating Aoki for Dummies Guide' and then proceeded to graffiti all over the Japanese fighters photo during the signing session.
He caught up with MMAmania to talk about the loss to Aoki and his plans for the future...
Do you have any regrets about taking the fight with Aoki?
I have none, James! Facing your dreams and fears is what make the difference between a dreamer and a "doer." I lost a battle, not the war. I thank him for his sportsmanship and helping me open my eyes on my weakness. There is no doubt that I will be back stronger and more dangerous than ever. There is no shame by losing against the best 155-pound fighter in all Asia.
Did nerves affect you at all on fight night?
Not at all. I was feeling great. I was sharp and ready. I have no excuses. I was maybe too confident and I was sure that he would come for at least a round of boxing as he said in the press. I was not thinking of the takedown. It's my fault. I take that as a rough lesson.
You seemed to really enjoy winding Aoki up before the fight, did you get a chance to speak to him after?
Not so much because we're both family men and we were in a hurry to be back with our sons. I had a short talk on Facebook (cause he is not fluent in English) and there is no bad blood. We both have characters for the show, to entertain the fans. All what was said before the fight was to pump it up a little bit. This guy is a true legend of the sport. I hope to be one also in couple of years.
Do you have any regrets about winding him up?
It was part of the show and part of my game to sell the tickets. I am quite sure that Shinya knows that I respect him for what he bring to the sport. He knows it's all about the game.
Eddie Ng, who you were supposed to make your ONE FC debut against, is reportedly close to a return from injury and you are now 1-1 against Evolve MMA fighters. Would you be interested in facing him in a 'rubber match?'
Why not ? I am a ONE FC fighter. I will take on who Matt Hume, Victor Cui and the fans want me to go at. If it's Eddie, let's do it.
How many times are you hoping to fight in 2013?
I was on a huge winning streak...so I am planning to build it back, but also improve myself as a fighter. I have some holes in my game that I have to fix ASAP. But honestly, I would love to fight at least twice in 2013. Three times would be great.
How have you enjoyed fighting for ONE FC?
Do I like fighting in the biggest MMA show in Asia ? Fighting at ONE FC is a blessing and I will always prepare and do my best to put a show for the fans. I was already known in Asia when I joined ONE FC, but this main event just gave me monstrous popularity with the fans. Fighting in Singapore Indoor Stadium was an incredible feeling. I hope to fight in other countries thanks to ONE FC. I am upset of my last performance and I am just thinking about redemption, I am certain that Victor is planning lot of surprises for 2013.
Is it true you are writing a book?
True! It started as a joke. But more and more people told me that they would buy it, that they wanna know who is behind 'The Game,' some secret about what's behind the scenes, what I have done in my life to be here under the spotlight. There will be some exclusives pictures, some technical advice on dietetic and proper way of cutting weight...lots of tips, but most important, lots of fun. Believe me, love me or hate me, you will purchase that book.
Do you train even when you don't have a fight or are you taking a break?
I never stop because it wakes up all my old injuries. I just go lighter when I have no fight plans.
How are you enjoying life in Kuala Lumper and do you think you will stay there long term?
Malaysia is a nice country and I enjoy living there. It's all about opportunity but at the moment I am training at MuayFit and I am happy where I am. Since ESPN began scheduling ONE FC on their channel, many gyms have opened and are trying to follow the path that MuayFit is leading at the moment. We have the best fight team in Malaysia and we are like a family. That why it's not just about success, it's about the image people see of how we are outside of the cage. We make the sport more popular cause we have good result and we show a good attitude outside of the Cage. I love Malaysia.
You've been in the region for a while and lived in both Vietnam and Thailand. How has the martial arts scene in the SE Asian region changed in the last few years?
It has exploded! Even the UFC is coming to Macau. and top level fighters are going to train at places like Evolve MMA, TMT and MuayFit. Things are getting big. ONE FC is sold out at every event. The show in Philippines and last one in Singapore were epic. I just hope Thailand will open their eyes and legalize MMA before it's too late.