Ben Royle grew up in Manchester and it would be fair to say there were a lot of distractions. The 26 year old now calls Phuket home and is on the ONE Championship roster.
But his path towards a successful MMA career has not been a straightforward one,
“I didn’t really do much of anything, just hanging around on the streets. I didn’t get into much trouble, I was pretty good at getting out of it, but some of my friends were on the path to doing bad things,” he recalls.
Royle was reluctantly persuaded to try MMA and it soon became an obsession for him,
“We had a friend whose dad ran a gym, Hyde MMA, and one day they said they were going there to try it so I got dragged along. Two weeks later, they’d all stopped, but I was looking for a second gym so I could train five or six times a week. I had got obsessed.”
Royle faces Purev Otgonjargal at ONE: ‘Battleground’ Part III which is being broadcast this Friday. After enjoying success on the amateur scene in Manchester he moved to Phuket in 2016,
“One of my friends had been to Thailand and encouraged me to go there. I got a bad injury, barely trained, and just partied. Then one day, I realized that I needed to change my life. I needed to do something, so I messaged him and said, ‘Let’s go to Thailand’.”
Royle was able to train, travel and compete. He had already started to make a name for himself on the Australian scene when the opportunity came to fight fellow Phuket resident Quitin Thomas at ONE: ‘No Surrender’ Part III.
The timing was perfect for Royle who was struggling financially,
“It was everything. The situation at that time was bad. I needed to win that fight, I needed the win bonus. If I didn’t win that, it would have been the closest I’ve been to leaving Thailand.”
Royle stopped Thomas in the third round. Having beaten a BJJ black belt in Australia in his previous fight the win cemented the Northern Irishman’s status as one of the top featherweights in Thailand.
Securing a contract with ONE Championship and making a successful debut came as a major relief to Royle. It brought him the financial security he needed to stay in Thailand long term,
“My overdrafts were maxed out. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for food the next day. But I was very lucky; everything just always seemed to work out. Now, I’m more established. Things are much more stable for me. But it was four-and-a-half years of not knowing how I’d pay for things.”
Enjoying the journey
His next assignment will be against Purev Otgonjargal. The Mongolian is riding a six fight winning streak but Royle is determined to snap it,
“I want to submit him, too. He’s 7-1 with seven submissions. If I submit him, that will look good. I think it will be a rear-naked choke or a triangle.”
The Singapore Indoor Stadium is a long way from the mean streets of Manchester. But for Royle it will just be another step on a journey he is determined to enjoy,
“It sounds cliche, but I’m just doing this for the love of it now. I want to have this fight, and I want to keep fighting and having these experiences on my journey as a martial artist.”