Mitch 'The Dragon' Chilson is one of the most recognizable mixed martial artists in Singapore and holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) under Renzo Gracie, has won Muay Thai titles in Thailand and has a professional MMA record of 2-1.
He burst onto the scene at Martial Combat in 2010 by stopping Taiwanese Sanda champion Jingxiong Zhang with a highlight reel one punch KO in the third round of an exciting fight. That victory was followed up with a quickfire submission win over Guobin Xue on the same show a few months later.
When ONE Fighting Championship was formed last year Chilson, who is a member of the fight team at Evolve MMA, was signed up and thrown in with URCC Featherweight Champion Eric Kelly. The Filipino had a fearsome reputation and was a veteran of five fights who had submitted every opponent he had ever faced.
A fast and furious fight ended dramatically with Kelly choking out Chilson in the opening round. It was a major disappointment for the American who was so determined to win that he refused to tap and then tried to carry on fighting after he had recovered consciousness,
"The loss to Eric Kelly was hard. It was is my new home country Singapore. It was front of thousands of friends, teammates and students of Evolve MMA. I promised myself that I would come back stronger and better than ever and On the 23rd of June at One FC 4, you will see a brand new "Dragon".'
Chilson will get a chance to bounce back from that loss and to show that he is still a force to be reckoned with in ONE FC's featherweight division at ONE Fighting Championship: 'Destiny of Warriors' next month. He will be up against Malaysian AJ Vaa
"I have not heard or seen much info about AJ Vaa. I understand he has been training in the US and has put in a lot of quality work since his last fight. He has good stand up skills and is solid on the ground. If a fighter is signed with ONE FC, you know they are gonna be talented and dangerous."
As someone who has been involved with Evolve MMA since the beginning Chilson has been perfectly positioned to see the explosion of interest in mixed martial arts in Singapore.
"When Evolve MMA first opened the MMA scene in SEA Asia was non existent. It has been interesting to watch the sport of MMA grown in Singapore. There are many gyms in the area and MMA is on some major TV networks all the time. Its been fun to be part of the boom and I expect to see a lot more in the next few years."
There was a time when Japanese MMA ruled the world but the standard has slipped with top Asian fighters often heading to the US in order to train. Evolve MMA has started to reverse that trend with world class fighters such as Rich Franklin, Ben Askren traveling in the opposite direction in search of the type of training which can take their game to the next level.
Evolve MMA is unusual in that its fight team are all full time salaried employees who train week in, week out regardless of whether they are preparing for a fight. This means that even though Chilson has not fought since September he has been training constantly alongside the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos and Shinya Aoki and a normal day for him looks like this,
"The average day for a member of the Evolve Fight team is unique. I would compare it be to being at a elite university except that we study the martial arts. Every day we arrive at Evolve MMA and meet the head instructor Heath Sims. We train wrestling or grappling from 9-11am, some of us teach and others rest up.
At 2pm we begin Muay Thai until 4pm. Each one of us has a specific coach we are assigned and these coaches are some of the highest level Muay Thai fighters on the planet. My coaches for this camp have been world Muay Thai champion Attachai Fairtex and "The Emperor" Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn. After training we rest for a while and some have classes to teach. We also do additional strength & conditioning work outs, boxing or BJJ in the evening. It depends on what we have been told to focus on."
"This is a very interesting fight, I am looking forward to it. Kwon is good everywhere, he has legit stand up, is strong on the ground and showed good take down defense in his fight against Brian Choi. Kelly is explosive and I believe he needs to finish this fight on the ground. It will be an exciting fight."
He is in the mix with a number of fighters in the ONE FC featherweight division and if he can get past the challenge of Vaa there will be plenty of opportunities,
"I would like a rematch with Kelly to get that loss back and Kwon would also be a good match up, Honorio Banario put together a good record in the URCC and I think he would also be a great opponent but I don't pick my fights, I leave that up to the match makers at One FC. All my focus now is on AJ Vaa and whatever happens after is not in my control. I just want to put on an amazing performance. "
Chilson believes that by the time he steps into the cage at ONE FC: 'Destiny of Warriors' he will be a completely different fighter from the one who lost to Kelly last September due to the diversity of coaches and training partners he has been working with regularly since then,
"Heath Sims has come on as the MMA/Wrestling coach at Evolve MMA and It has been amazing to learn from such a legend. He has added a whole new level to our game. Ben (Askren) and Rich (Franklin) were a huge help during this training camp. It was a huge benefit to have such high level training partners in during such an important part of the training camp. Ben is a world class wrestler with a unique style. Rich is a former UFC champion, so his experience in preparing for big fights was unmeasurable."
Vaa has experience of fighting professional Muay Thai in Thailand, just like Chilson, and since his last loss he has traveled to Canada to train at Georges St Pierre's Tri Star Gym. The Malaysian will have the home crowd behind him but Chilson is ready for a hostile atmosphere,
"I am sure he will be well supported but I am just looking forward to getting back in the One FC cage. I promise to put on a great show and I am sure the Malaysian crowd will love it."