Pieter Buist has won eight fights in a row and stands on the cusp of a lightweight title shot. He is coming off a split decision win over former champion Eduard Folayang.

The Dutchman is close to the pinnacle of the sport. But for Buist the journey has been long and hard,

“I was homeless. I was sleeping in a park or sometimes on someone’s couch,” he recalls.

He eventually found work collecting garbage in the Dutch city of Breda. It doesn’t sound like a glamorous job, but for an aspiring mixed martial artist it provided a physical workout as well as a regular pay cheque,

“The plan was to find a job that I could combine with my training. Every day when I was working I walked around 35kms and picked up more than 20,000kgs of trash. So, physically I saw it as good strength and conditioning training,” he said.

Busy schedule

Being a professional mixed martial artist is a full time job in itself. But Buist had to fit his training sessions around his shifts on the garbage truck,

“I worked five days a week and trained two times a day. I woke up and went to work and then on my lunch break I went to the gym to train for an hour. The garbage truck picked me up, and then I worked again, and then I trained again in the evening. It was an honest and fair job that made me humble.”

There would have been easier ways for Buist to make money but he was determined to work hard and stay humble,

“I grew up in a neighborhood where a lot of people were drug dealers. I saw the lifestyle they had and I didn’t want that so for me it was not an option.”

Short notice

Buist accepted the bout with Folayang at ONE: ‘Fire & Fury’ at just two weeks notice. The Dutchman scored a split decision win over the former lightweight champion but feels he was far from his best,

“I felt I wasn’t as sharp as normal but I kept it technical. I think the first round was for him, the second round was for me, and the third round I landed the high kick.”

Under ONE Championship scoring criteria it is more important to finish strongly than to start strong. Buist says he was surprised to hear one of the judges had awarded the fight to Folayang,

“He was able to land those knees but I won the fight. I thought it was weird that it was split, but I’m happy I won.”

Title shot

Iuri Lapicus has been handed the next shot at champion Christian Lee. Having taken two fights in a row on short notice Buist wants a bit more time to prepare for his next bout.

But he feels he’s done enough to earn a title shot. Once the coronavirus, or Covid-19, crisis has eased the former garbage man wants to wear the gold,

“I want the champion, I’m gunning for the champion. That’s who I want and that’s who I feel I deserve.”