Tayfun Ozcan has faced some top kickboxers. He has wins over Andy Souwer, Davit Kiria, Mohamed Khamal, Amansio Paraschiv, Endy Semeleer, Jonay Risco and Mohammed Jaraya on his record.

But the man who has dominated in Dutch promotion Enfusion for several years knows he will be taking a step up in competition after signing with ONE Championship. Ozcan changed his entire training camp in order to prepare for the challenge,

“When I signed with ONE Championship, I changed my whole team as it was time to step out of the comfort zone because of all the good fighters here,” he said.

Baptism of fire

He faces a baptism of fire next Friday against Sittichai Sitsongpeenong. Ozcan has been matched with one of the top kickboxers on the roster at ONE: ‘Battleground’.

The kickboxing signings have been coming thick and fast in the featherweight division. Giorgio Petrosyan won the Grand Prix in 2019 but Ozcan is one of several new arrivals coming to take his crown.

He thinks ONE Championship has put together the best roster of kickboxers in a single division in the sport’s history,

“I think the featherweight division is the biggest and best kickboxing division that has ever existed. This is the champion’s league, and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

Difficult upbringing

Ozcan’s family roots are in Turkey but he hails from a country which has become synonymous with the sport of kickboxing. He was born and raised in Holland but had a difficult upbringing,

“My mom and dad divorced at a young age. It was difficult because my mom only had a minimum wage job so, raising seven children, it was very hard for us to grow up at that time. I had to take care of my little brothers and sisters. I couldn’t go to school. I always had to be working. l had no education. I quit school at the age of 17 because of all the things going on in my life.”

It was after he started getting in trouble at school that Ozcan had the opportunity to join a community group that gave him the opportunity to explore various sports,

“They took us to soccer, golf, and one time they took us to kickboxing. It was a real kickboxing gym (and) I fell immediately in love because of how the teacher gave the lesson, how disciplined it was, and how the guys trained.”

He immediately fell in love with the sport of kickboxing but at this stage money was an issue for Ozcan,

“I thought this was what I needed to (use) my energy on, get me focused, give me discipline, and get me back to the good road. I started training for three months, but I couldn’t pay the training fee. They were very hard on me because I couldn’t pay,” he recalls.

Natural talent

Fortunately for Ozcan a friend introduced him to a rival kickboxing gym where his talent was immediately recognized,

“A friend of mine one time said to me, ‘Tayfun, come to my gym, spar with me’. It was a Turkish trainer, his pupils were training for two years, and I was beating them up, He couldn’t believe it. After, he said to me, ‘if you want, please stay at my gym. You don’t have to pay a training fee. You get all your stuff. Just train at my gym’.”

Having been a troublemaker for many of his teenage years Ozcan was determined to repay his mother by succeeding in his kickboxing career,

“She said one time when I was kicked out of school, ‘Tayfun, I hope you make something out of your life, or else everything I did for you guys is for nothing’. That motivated me so much. I needed to make something of my life.”

With natural talent and a strong motivation to succeed the 29 year old has been extremely successful. He comes into his ONE Championship debut on the back of a 13 fight winning streak and knows exactly what he wants to achieve,

“My goal is to beat Petrosyan and be a ONE champion.”

The competition in ONE Championship’s featherweight division is intense. But Ozcan has been a professional kickboxer for over a decade and will be looking to prove he belongs with the sport’s elite with a win on Friday.