It has been a career defining year for Reinier de Ridder. He earned a title shot, lost it due to injury, was reinstated after Covid-19 cancellations and finally won the ONE Championship middleweight belt.

He did it be beating one of the promotion’s biggest stars, Aung La Nsang at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’. It was an emphatic win too, de Ridder submitted the Burmese fighter in the opening round and recalls the exact moment he knew that the title was his,

“I was entirely in control from the moment I grabbed him. From the moment I had the body lock on him, standing, I knew it was mine.”

The finish was not immediate. La Nsang was so comfortable that he was smiling and waving while de Ridder had his back and the Dutchman admits he had to work for the submission,

“I knew I had it in the end, but before that, he was defending very well. I knew he was not going anywhere, but he defended very well. He placed his body in the right spot. He scooted down a little bit, so when our backs were against the cage, there was no option to finish him there.”

Taking the bait

De Ridder has nine submission wins on his record. La Nsang was well prepared but the Dutchman succeeded in setting a trap for his opponent,

“The positioning wasn’t perfect, so that’s when I let go of the left hook to give him some space to move, let him have the thought he was going to escape. He took the bait, and I could adjust to take the right position. From then on, I was in the right position to finish.”

He needed less than four minutes to finish the fight. The result was an upset and while some people were shocked a how quickly La Nsang was finished de Ridder wasn’t one of them,

“It was all according to plan. Exactly how I’d envisioned it, exactly what I’d been training for my entire life,” he said.

Remarkable turnaround

It represented a remarkable turnaround for de Ridder who had already turned down a title shot. After outpointing Leandro Ataides at ONE: ‘Warrior’s Code’ he was offered a shot at La Nsang but the timing wasn’t right for the 30 year old,

“(I had) a minor shoulder injury but it was very short notice after a very tough fight for me, mentally as well. It was my first fight going to a decision, so I needed some time to contemplate and reset everything. They asked me to be back in seven weeks, so it was just too short of a time.”

His title dreams looked to be on the backburner when Vitaly Bigdash was handed a shot at La Nsang. But Covid-19 put paid to that particular fight and by the time ONE Championship was back on schedule de Ridder had healed up,

“I always thought I deserved it more than Bigdash or anyone else in the division, so I was pretty sure I was going to get the call. I made my case in the three fights before and my entire career,” he says.

Interesting time

The fight preparation wasn’t without challenged. De Ridder also had to deal with a newborn baby which he says was ‘interesting’,

“Finally I got the call just after my boy was born. He was a week old when I got the call that I’d be fighting in eight weeks. I didn’t really have a lot of sleep, so it was an interesting time. But we made the most of it,” he said.

Having finally secured his shot at the champion de Ridder left nothing to chance with his preparation,

“I put everything else aside. I didn’t teach any classes, took a step back from my other work and went all-in on focusing on every part of the game, mentally, physically and technically.”

The time he invested in preparing for La Nsang was clearly well spent. De Ridder was recently named by ONE Championship as the ‘fighter of the year’ and definitely won’t have to worry about being leapfrogged by other contenders in 2021.