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How hard lessons cultivated rising ONE Championship star Danial Williams' mindset

Sacrifice, dedication, and a tough loss in Japan changed the Aussie slugger's mentality all for the better.
danial-williams

"Mini T" Danial Williams (4-1) may be a former muay Thai World Champion and rising MMA star in ONE Championship's strawweight division, but he owes all of his success to a close circle of people.

The 28-year-old fighter, who faces Team Alpha Male's Namiki Kawahara (7-4-2) at "ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic" on Friday, credits his Thai mother and Australian father as two of his pillars of strength.

They instilled discipline, confidence, and courage in "Mini T" from a young age, and as far as he can remember, they were always there for him through thick and thin.

"I'm a product of my parents' parenting. They really gave me a really good upbringing, from them coming from not much," he recalled.

Williams' dad and mom were not big earners. His father regularly spent several days away from the family at a mining rig to make ends meet. 

The fighter's mother, on the other hand, was a superwoman at heart. Aside from raising her two kids, she worked at a tomato factory in Perth and dedicated the rest of her spare time to volunteer work in the local community.

Williams and his older brother, Hayden, rarely had the luxury of sharing special moments with their parents. However, "Mini T" knew that his dad and mom were doing it for a greater purpose.

"I'm very lucky to have parents who were such hard workers. They came from nothing, so my work ethic definitely comes from them," he said.

That mentality became pivotal when he dove into martial arts, which ran in the family. 

Williams' great-grandfather and uncle were muay Thai practitioners. In fact, his uncle was a champion in North Thailand, so he always had a dream to continue the family tradition. 

Unfortunately, the traditional striking art from Thailand wasn't easily accessible in Perth during his childhood, so instead, "Mini T" picked up taekwondo. He even tried his hands at ninjutsu. None of those martial arts, however, satisfied him.

"I started at a taekwondo school when I was seven, but I've always wanted to do muay Thai. I looked up to my uncle in that way. I always wanted to impress him," Williams shared.

Three years later, "Mini T" and his older sibling found a muay Thai gym near their home in Perth.

"Me and my brother always wanted to do muay Thai, so we thought, 'Let's 100 percent do it,'" he said. "And we kept it up ever since."

Williams took to "the art of eight limbs" like a duck to water, and he quickly found himself head and shoulders above the other students. 

He rose through the ranks of the amateur muay Thai circuit in Australia before temporarily relocating to Thailand to test himself against the bigger names of the sport.

There, "Mini T" continued where he left off. The crowning moment of his career happened when he defeated Bangkok stadium veteran Thanit Khomsai in 2015 to earn the WMC muay Thai world title. 

But every success story has its downfall. And for Williams, he discovered it quite harshly while competing against an opponent in Tokyo, just a few months later.

"I knew I had this opportunity to fight in Japan in an eliminator for the K-1 world title, but I was in party mode. Basically, I had three weeks to prepare with a belly full of alcohol, and then I just paid the price," he said.

"I thought I was literally invincible. The ego got the better of me, and he knocked me out in round one."

It was a rude awakening, but that loss caused him to start prioritizing his career over other aspects of life. Soon, though, he got everything back on track.

Williams even started learning other disciplines and decided to complement his muay Thai career with an MMA run.

In just 16 months, the Australian-Thai striker recorded three victories in the professional MMA ranks, a nice tally to go alongside his 24-8 resume as a muay Thai fighter.

That led him to ONE Championship, where he enjoyed an explosive debut against Rodtang Jitmuangnon under muay Thai rules at the promotion's groundbreaking "ONE on TNT I" event.

He may have lost the match, but his warrior spirit won the hearts of many. 

"I would love to hang in the ring with him again," Williams said. "I'm here to improve, as well as step back into Muay Thai. It's definitely ignited that spark."

That spark could turn into a fire, as he recently switched back to MMA and knocked out former ONE strawweight world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in February.

Now, he hopes to make it two in a row by taking out Kawahara on Friday.

Should he indeed emerge victorious at "ONE: Eersel vs. Sadikovic," Williams will dedicate the win to his close circle, who have equipped him with the will and motivation to succeed.

"I would always have to dedicate it to my parents and my partner because they're the ones around me," he said. "They go above and beyond (in many ways) that people don't know."