Ole Laursen was born in Manila, but left when he was just a child for a life which would see him living in first Denmark and then Thailand and fighting all over the world. Last year, the Muay Thai and K-1 veteran came home to set up Legacy Gym in Boracay and on August 31 at ONE FC 5: 'Pride of a Nation' he will fight in front of the Filipino fans for the first time.
It has been an incredible journey which has seen him face the likes of Buakaw Por Pramuk, Andy Souwer and Masato in his K-1 career and only a very dubious decision prevented him from beating Duane Ludwig in the final of the US K-1 Max tournament.
Laursen also defeated two opponents at Muay Thai in a single night to claim the prestigious King's Cup in Thailand and went up against Caol Uno and Genki Sudo in his first two mixed martial arts (MMA) fights. He is a veteran of at least 50 Muay Thai, K-1 and kickboxing fights and nine MMA bouts and is coming off the biggest win of his entire career against Eduard Folayang at ONE FC: 'War of the Lions.'
After being in the fight game for so long it would be understandable if Laursen struggled for motivation but even for such an experienced fighter his next assignment is going to be a little bit special. He will be fighting in front of 16,500 of his countrymen in the city where he is born and the 34 year old is understandably excited about it.
"Its gonna be crazy. There's nothing I love more than a huge crowd, the lights, the fans, the cheers and the adrenalin rushing. Trust me the Araneta Arena will be on fire that night and it will be extra exciting for me because I was born in Manila and it's my first chance to showcase my skills to my fellow Pinoys."
Laursen lives in the tropical island of Boracay, a holiday resort which is just a short plane trip away from the city of his birth. He already has one camp, the Legacy Gym in Ubon Ratchatani, and a second site in the Philippines is currently under construction.
"Life is good here. The gym is coming along slowly but surely. At the moment we just have one big cage up that we are using for for training ourselves while the gym finishes up but by end next month there will be two Pride size boxing rings, a big matted area with cage walls and the bag area will be finished with 15 bags. Besides that we will also have a fully equipped weight gym."
While the camp is still a work in progress Laursen had prepared there for both his ONE FC fights, the loss to Felipe Enomoto and the victory over Folayang, and is relying on all his experience to train up a new generation of Filipino fighters.
"I have a handful of locals im training to be a Team Boracay but they are green beginner level still. We do have Filipino fighter Richie Redman here and Kristoffer Persson and Marcus Waters plus Phil Baroni is telling me he is coming out here to get used to time change as he is fighting on same card."
One thing which Laursen does not know yet is who he will be facing at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation'. A rematch with Folayang has been discussed and remains a possibility but he has his sights firmly set on the reigning DREAM Lightweight Champion.
After taking out Folayang, widely touted as being one of ONE FC's top lightweights, in his last fight Laursen is ready to test himself against the best 155 lbs fighters available. Regardless of who stands opposite him on August 31st he is looking forward to fighting in front of fight fans in Manila for the first time.
"I did fight some amateur boxing matches in Manila before but it wasn't open to the public, it was in front of the boxing committee in order to qualify for the Filipino national amateur boxing team. You can't compare that to fighting in the biggest indoor arena in the country, the place where Ali fought Frazier. I was actually accepted onto the national team but I had to turn it down because at the time I was still living in Thailand."
Laursen surprised a few people when he shot for takedowns in his fight with Folayang and in a very close contest it is quite possible that they made the difference between winning and losing. He has a reputation as being a striker but believes his ground game is widely underrated.
"I was awarded my BJJ blue belt by Eduardo Bezera almost two years ago after winning a BJJ whitebelt comp in Manila. I haven't put my Gi on since and I barely did before, I would like to later on when I stop fighting but I think that at the moment any time spent training should be towards becoming a more complete MMA fighter."
If Laursen's last two fights are anything to go by then whoever is found to face him should be ready for war because he likes to throw serious leather. He landed bombs on both Enomoto and Folayang but against his fellow Filipino he showed that he could combine his aggression with a considered gameplan by pacing himself where necessary and utilizing wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.
Win or lose Laursen likes to entertain and he will get a chance do put on a show for 16,500 fans next month. ONE FC has already sold out stadiums in Singapore and Malaysia but the Philippines is well ahead of these countries when it comes to MMA. The URCC has been putting on shows there for an entire decade and the sport is well established, partly thanks to the effort of famous Filipino fighters like Laursen.
"It has always been a dream for me to bring back what I have learned in martial arts to the Philippines and help develop the new generation of fighters. I believe that Pinoys have great fighting spirit that can be compared to Thai fighters spirit but the big difference with Pinoy fighters is that they really love MMA, no need convince or try to talk them into seeing the light in MMA, they already love it and embrace it."
ONE FC's first ever foray in the Philippines already looks set to be the Asian MMA event of the year because it is stacked with local talent and is on a scale never before attempted in the region, as well as being in the same venue that the historic 'Thrilla in Manila' took place. Laursen's face is the one which is currently on all the posters and for a Manila born fighter doing battle in the arena where Ali famously fought Frazier is the ultimate honor.
"ONE FC is already available on ESPN Star Sports here and people watch MMA on TV all the time but there has never been a live show this big in the Philippines before. I think it will be the most significant event in the history of Pinoy MMA and I am proud to be a part of it."