One of the most charismatic MMA fighters in Asia today is Frenchman Arnaud “The Game” Lepont. He makes his return to the cage at ONE FC 14 on March 14, 2014 in his adopted country of Malaysia.
Lepont is a multifaceted fighter and he is always down to whatever challenge comes in his career. Aside from his cage performance, Lepont is also known for his pre-fight tricks, enjoyable trash-talking, and physical charisma – including a trademark red mohawk – that certainly attract fans to see his fights. Another reason why Lepont has ton of followers is because he is very active in social networking, especially on Facebook. He’s a very straightforward guy when it comes to his opinions, a good talker and has solid wins to back it up. In other words, Arnaud Lepont can talk the talk and walk the walk. It makes him a marketable fighter; a complete package for ONE FC.
Lepont destroyed every single opponent he met including Submission wins over Jian Kai Chee, Krzystof Hajtalowicz, and Brian Choi, before stumbling in a two-fight losing skid to legendary Japanese MMA icon Shinya Aoki and undefeated Eddie Ng. His fight with Aoki was a fight he fervently asked of ONE FC CEO, Victor Cui, and on October 6, 2012, he got the go and faced his idol.
What happened next is in the record books. Aoki caught Lepont in a very deep triangle choke that put the Frenchman to sleep at 1:25 mark of the opening frame. It was a heartbreaking loss on Lepont’s part, but he doesn’t regret having the chance against Aoki.
After that, Lepont faced another Evolve MMA standout, Eddie “The Magician” Ng. His fight with Ng was more active than with Aoki; the first round was filled with exchanges from the feet and a takedown coming from Ng. In the second round, Lepont came out with a huge takedown, scored with ground and pound, and landed a cracking soccer kick to Ng’s face. But just 15 seconds before the bell, Lepont found himself caught up in a tight armbar and was forced to tap.
Lepont is set to redeem himself from his last two losses and plans to get back to his winning ways when he faces former ONE FC Lightweight Champion Kotetsu Boku. Lepont spoke with MMA-in-ASIA’s Zike Sugawara about his ups and downs and what the future holds.
Zike: You are coming off tough losses against two tough lightweights in ONE FC. How important is this next fight for you?
Lepont: Some people seem to forget that even if I come from two hard losses, I am still 10-3. Before those two losses I was 10-1 and those losses came from Aoki and Eddie Ng. I am still convinced that I was winning the fight until I got caught by this magical armbar from the back.
This fight is important against Boku as, once again, I am taking on the top of the lightweight division of Asia, I am facing the former ONE FC Lightweight Champion. It’s again a very tough fight for me and my team.
Zike: You are arguably the most entertaining fighters in ONE FC today both inside and outside the cage. You have a very colorful character which made you gain a lot of fans, but also, some haters. How do you deal with them?
Lepont: If I show you a hundred dollar bill and ask you if you want it, I bet that you will say “Yes”. If I crush it and step on it and ask you once again the same question I am pretty sure you will still answer with a “Yes”. Being down or on your knees, stepped over by some haters doesn’t lower you quality or your value. I am still “The Game”.
That is sadly a part of the game. The more famous you are, the more you bring attention and more you have fans and haters. I have no problem with people who spit on me. I just try not to listen. But I just cannot respect those who cross the line and make some personal attack over my private life or my family. I try to protect them from my exposure and fame; this is my choice. Some psychologically weak try to hurt me with some low blow. I pity them. I am proud of who I am and can watch myself every morning in the mirror without shame.
Zike: Can you give us your thoughts about your next foe?
Lepont: I will face the Korean Tiger, Mr Elbow, Kotetsu “No Face” Boku. He is the former ONE FC Champion. He has arguably the best hands in MMA and has a list of champions he defeated.
Zike: On paper, you are the underdog in this match up. Does being an underdog give you extra push to train harder in the gym and win the fight?
Lepont: I am, most of the time, the underdog in my fights. Why? Because I try to fight the best guys that the business can give me inside the cage. It’s not about ego or pride, it’s about Legacy. I’ve said many times that I don’t run after the belt, I run after fights that have meaning to me. I prefer, like BJ Penn, to go for the best, fight the best and see what happens. I don’t need motivation to train. My motivation is my son that I have to feed, my fans that I try not to disappoint, and my friends that believe in me. I train harder than anybody at the gym; you can trust me on that. My daily routine would turn some of you totally mad – as it already turns me mad sometimes. (Laughs)
Zike: What do you think is your biggest advantage over Boku?
Lepont: Boku has the experience and the stand up game on his part. I have the heart and the advantage to fight in front of my hometown. I think that the crowd will support their local fighters, like me and my friend Peter Davis.
Zike: Malaysia has been your home for the past few years and you’ve said before that you consider it as your second home already. How important is it fighting in front of thousands of Malaysian fans screaming your name?
Lepont: Having their support is very important. It can really change the way the fight goes. I am more than happy to be back in ONE FC after a year and doing it in front of my friends and fans of Kuala Lumpur. The last time they pushed me to get that victory over Choi. Hope this time, once again, God and their support will be by my side.
Zike: Can you tell us a bit about your preparations for this fight against Boku?
Lepont: For that fight, I have no choice but to cross train. First because I personally think that you cannot properly train if you do it in your own gym. Nobody would dare to question my choice or my training. So I train at Monarchy Gym in KL for the Gi and No Gi with Samir Mrabet, Wrestling with my friend Pourya from T-rex and stand up with Alex from Alex’s Gym, Barbod from Global Elite Gym and Jom Kitty from MuayThai Fitness Lab.
I also try to keep a class a day at T-rex Gym in Sunway to stay in touch with my students. I don’t want to disappear from them and be a ghost in the gym that I represent. So with my own cardio drills, my daily training goes up between five to six hours. It’s very tiring to the point where my body just breaks down at night and I’m having no trouble sleeping.
Zike: So you are spending your entire fight camp in Malaysia?
Lepont: I do it in Malaysia, my hometown. I love Malaysia. I still dream of having my citizen card one day, but I slowly start to doubt it will happen. Whatever, maybe one day, I will step in the cage with the flag of my new country.
Zike: What gives you inspiration every time you step inside the cage?
Lepont: My mom will forever be my biggest and greatest inspiration. She passed away 13 years ago. She fought the cancer and never gave up. Even when she was dying, she still believed in her chances to rise and stand again to beat that sickness. For me and my sister, she never gave up, ever. For her memory, I just don’t have the right to give up during camp or the fight. To beat me, you have to prove that you want it more that I do.
Zike: If you weren’t a pro fighter, what do you think you would be doing for a living?
Lepont: Sadly, exactly what I was doing before being a pro fighter. I would be behind a desk and selling bank products to people who don’t really need it. I would be a shame and not truly happy about it. I tell my wife every time during the camp that the best part of being a fighter is when I step into that cage. That’s a reward. I love it and I feel alive.
Zike: We all know that all fighters have a busy schedule but for sure there are things you love to do outside the cage. What does Arnaud Lepont do in his free time?
Lepont: If I am in Vietnam or if my little boy is around, I try to spend as much time as I can with him. I will always be a father before being a fighter. He will be around the cage for the first time for this one and it put an extra pressure on my shoulders. I am also a big cinema addict. I can watch and rewatch a movie. My last movies are Robocop, The Lego Movie, Her, and The Monkey King for Chinese New Year.
Zike: If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be and why?
Lepont: I already had it. I stepped in the cage with Shinya and took a heavy beating. But it was exactly what I needed to get this extra motivation to get my feet on the ground and train harder. I think it really helped me to open my eyes. But a rematch against him in the future in Japan would be something nice to finish my career.
Zike: What goes on your mind moments before your fight?
Lepont: Pretty much nothing. I try to relax, warm slowly my body and stay focused. I turn my aggression to the maximum and wait for ONE FC’s “Go” signal. Pressure only comes when I am behind the curtain and hearing my walkout music starting. The next couple of seconds are a nightmare, that’s also why I have all these walkout antics. It helps me to clear my mind and relax.
Zike: How important is it to have a tough mental game in a fight?
Lepont: Having a tough mental game is very important; it can cost you the fight. That’s what happened during my last two fights. I was not in the cage when I was fighting Shinya. I was still a fan. It was a big mistake. And with Eddie, I was following the game plan, but I lost my focus for a couple of seconds before the end of the second round and gave him enough time to capitalize on it. I will try not to do the same mistake twice.
Zike: Do you have any message for Kotetsu Boku?
Lepont: “お前はもう死んでいる” – one of the quotations from “Fist of the North Star” anime saying, “You are already dead.”