Sinsamut Klinmee burst into ONE Championship with a pair of stunning knockouts earlier this year, and on Friday, October 21, he can make his lifelong dream a reality.
That evening, the Thai rising star will fight Regian Eersel for the inaugural ONE lightweight muay Thai world title at ONE on Prime Video 3, and after growing up in a family of esteemed combat sports champions, he can add his own prestigious belt to the collection.
Find out how "Aquaman" began his combat sports journey surrounded by greatness and eventually earned this massive opportunity to claim gold at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Muay Thai in his blood
Childhood and muay Thai were synonymous for Sinsamut.
Born in Pattaya, Thailand, his family ran a gym, which meant the youngster encountered experienced fighters in the midst of their training sessions on a daily basis.
"When I was a child, every morning I would see the gym members return from their running," he recalls. "I watched them train every morning. When I came back from school, I still saw them training."
Along with running the gym, Sinsamut's family was a major force on the Thailand circuit, producing champions in revered stadiums such as Lumpinee and Rajadamnern.
With that kind of pedigree, a life inside the ring seemed like destiny for the aspiring athlete.
"My close relatives like my uncles are all muay Thai champions," the 26-year-old explains. "My uncles are famous muay Thai fighters. You may have heard the names Yokthai Sit-Or, Rambaa Somdet, and Tappaya Sit-Or. We have WBC and WBA (boxing) world champions in our family.
"I admired them and always dreamed of becoming like them. I was always excited to watch them fight."
Competing in 'the art of eight limbs'
Sinsamut toyed with training from the age of 4, but he started to take it more seriously under the tutelage of his father a few years later.
The young Thai had also been told by his mother that if he wanted new toys, he would need to earn them. So, he stepped through the ropes.
"My first fight was in a Pattaya bar when I was 7. I got 100 baht (around $3 USD) for that fight, plus tips from tourists," Sinsamut says. "In just one fight, I could buy a cool bicycle that captured the eyes of all my friends at school. I was so proud of myself."
More than anyone, Sinsamut was spurred on by his older brother, Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee.
Sudsakorn was a decorated muay Thai competitor who was 10 years older, and he acted as a source of both encouragement and tough love.
Even when the younger sibling lost motivation after struggling to get high-level matchups in Thailand due to his higher weight class, Sudsakorn kept him on the right track.
"Of course, my brother is always my great inspiration," Sinsamut says. "The reason I still fight today is him. Many friends of mine who started at the same time as me have already quit, but I haven't quit because my brother always encourages me to go forwards."
Thai national service and a detour in boxing
At 21, Sinsamut was drafted into the Thai armed forces. He wanted to continue competing in "the art of eight limbs" during his military service, but his larger size again hindered his goals.
However, it also opened up a new avenue for the aspiring athlete and helped equip him with some additional tools and experiences.
"At first, I wanted to fight in muay Thai, but there was no division for me to fit in, so I decided to switch to boxing," Sinsamut says.
"Training at the barracks made me a lot tougher and unyielding. They taught me how to be disciplined and focused. After I won so many times, the army sent me to join the national boxing camp."
After winning a national boxing title at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, Sinsamut got the chance to mix it up with world-class strikers at the International Military Sports Council competition in 2019.
There were even Olympians in the field, and the Pattaya native took more confidence from the tournament knowing that he could hold his own against the elite in a new combat sport.
"I traveled to compete in Wuhan, China. There, I fought against a few competitors who are Olympic boxers. Although I was eliminated in the quarterfinals, I was proud to be able to win against two Olympic athletes in the competitions. That was great enough for me."
A chance to claim world championship gold
Despite his foray into boxing, Sinsamut's passion was still muay Thai, and he had seen the rapid rise of ONE Championship's standup divisions.
With that in mind, he sent messages to the promotion's social media accounts to try and catch their attention.
Then two years later – in his ONE debut against legendary striker Nieky Holzken – Sinsamut proved the promotion was right to take a chance on him by knocking out the Dutchman in shocking fashion.
"I am so grateful to (ONE CEO) Chatri Sityodtong for choosing me. I do not even know why he chose me, but I can say that was a blessing indeed," Sinsamut says.
"I was just a small fry who dreamed of fighting on a global stage like ONE. After waiting patiently, my dream finally came true. I never stopped dreaming."
After adding another finish over Liam Nolan to his slate, Sinsamut has an opportunity to take home the most sought-after crown of all to his family.
Against dominant ONE lightweight kickboxing world champion Eersel – who is looking to become a two-sport king – the surging Thai feels ready to realize his lifelong goal and add to the legacy of those who came before him.
"Fighting with ONE is my first dream come true," he adds. "So, from now on, it's time for me to set a new, bigger goal.
"Previously, I wasn't sure if I was good enough for ONE to accept me because I never won a (world championship). But I thought that even if I wasn't a champion, I would take a belt from a champion to become a champion, and I must be the ONE world champion."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.