Mixed martial arts (MMA) is gaining steady traction in the country, and the combat sport has propelled a handful of its practitioners onto the international scene through the One Warrior Series, a global tour in search of the world’s best fighters.
Adib Sulaiman, 31, is one of those fighters, signing on in 2018. The Bulletin interviewed Adib on his MMA journey and his thoughts on the sport.
Adib started MMA around 2011, when he dropped by local gym Bussido to learn martial arts. He’s a sports enthusiast and wanted to try something new.
“I learnt Muay Thai at first, and then I saw Eazy (another MMA practitioner) was teaching Jiu-jitsu,” he said. “So I joined Jiu-jitsu and basically became addicted to it”.
While training, he met another gym member, Dayat who was going to do his debut MMA fight in Kota Kinabalu.
“I was basically the same size as him and became his sparring partner,” he said. “He was going to a competition and I Just wanted to become a good sparring partner.”
To do so, he added more combat styles of striking, boxing, kick-boxing to his knowledge of Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, adapting them to MMA.
From there, he gradually began to train more.
“At first, it was solely just Jiu-jitsu, then it transitioned into MMA and as I started to progress, I competed and tested myself.”
Adib signed up for his first tournament in Johor Bahru in 2015. Having already competed in Jiu-jitsu tournaments, he was mentally prepared for his debut match.
“That’s what made me get used to the competition atmosphere. It prepped me well for MMA. Jiu-jitsu helped me prepare myself and get ready a fight,” he said.
He admitted Jiu-jitsu is relatively safer because it doesn’t involved getting punched in
He would compete in amateur tournaments before fighting professionally in Malaysia’s Ultimate Beatdown Borneo in 2018.
He joined the One Warrior Series right after, the first of the three Bruneians (the other two being Eazy and Nurhidayat, who joined later in 2019).
At 163 centimetres and 56.7 kilogrammes, Adib fights in the straw-weight division. His current professional record is three victories after five fights.
After each victory, he stood proudly on the arena, with the Brunei flag draped over his shoulders.
Each of his matches in the series were arranged based on his compatibility with his opponent, usually in terms of fighting style and experience.
“I told them my experience in terms of amateur fights and Jiu-jitsu. So the matchmaker would match me up with someone who is also doing his first professional fight.” Beyond being able to bear the country’s flag in triumph, Adib valued the insight and knowledge as he travelled the region to train and learn from other fighters.
His trips to Hawaii and Bali training grounds were fruitful, where he exchanged fists and knowledge with other professional fighters.
“It was a good experience, to learn different techniques, different body types and sizes. It’s just a matter of learning new stuff every day,” he said.
“The thing about martial arts is you have to really learn and listen to the coaches especially heading into competitions,” he said.
“There are weeks and weeks of training prior to a competition. It takes a lot of discipline. MMA is really good in terms of developing your character and physical self.”
He recommends newcomers and enthusiasts to find a gym with an atmosphere that suits them. And to just go for it.
“People assume that they have to be fit before entering a combat class. Whatever combat sport there is, just go for it.”
Adib is also a coach and co-owner of the Wolfpack Training Ground, another MMA gym in
He firmly believes that combat sports are key to tackling the obesity problem in the country, particularly through the discipline needed to excel.
“I just want to point out that we have the highest rate of child obesity. It’s a bit concerning.
“Put the kids into combat sports and help them develop their discipline through the training from the coaches,” he said.
Through his career, from making the transition from being an IT student to being a fierce fighter bearing the moniker of ‘Deep’, Adib has had many proud moments; representing the country in MMA stands out among them
“I’m still young in this game and hopefully I’ll get more proud moments and fly the Brunei flag up high.”