At 6-foot-3 and 262 pounds heavy, Guto Inocente is no small man. But what's more impressive is the way he uses that giant stature to great effect.
The man from Brazil has powered himself to 38 career wins in kickboxing, including a second-round knockout of Bruno "Ironclad" Susano in his ONE debut, and on Friday, May 20, he’ll aim to make an even bigger statement at "ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot."
That night, the 35-year-old squares off against dangerous Serbian Rade Opacic, who's racked up four straight second-round KO victories to establish himself as the heavyweight kickboxing division's fastest-rising star.
Before the two giant strikers tussle at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, we look at the men who inspired Inocente to pursue kickboxing greatness.
Aerts, Hoost and Cro Cop
Inocente named three legendary kickboxers who motivated him to reach the pinnacle of the sport: Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, and Mirko Cro Cop.
Aerts started his career in the 1980s and still remains semi-active as a competitor in the sport. "The Dutch Lumberjack" has amassed a 108-35-2 record, scoring a magnificent 81 knockouts and winning three K-1 World Grand Prix championships.
Hoost is another Dutch kickboxing great with a career slate of 99-21-1. "Mr. Perfect" is also a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion, but he has dozens of other accolades to his name.
Cro Cop doesn’t have as many kickboxing accomplishments as the two previous men, having split his professional career between that sport and MMA. But for a while, he was known as one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet.
"I've been in the fighting game for a long time," Inocente said of the trio. "At the beginning of my career, I was inspired by all these great legends of the past. These were the guys I watched fight, and they inspired me a lot."
Outside of fighting, Inocente named one other man as being the most influential figure in his life – his dad.
"He's a guy who formed me in everything, both in the fight game and in my personality," he said. "So he is my mentor. He is the one who teaches and inspires me. And thank God, we are together to this day."
The Real Combat Technique representative adds that his father passed on a very important attribute – persistence.
In fact, Inocente believes that quality is the biggest secret to succeeding in any sport.
"This is the most important thing for all athletes," he said. "An athlete's career is not easy; it is difficult to be consistent. And the one who persists is the one who achieves their desired goals."
How Inocente plans to pay it forward
If Inocente can upset the thundering Opacic at ONE 157 Friday, it would instantly make him a leading contender for the inaugural ONE heavyweight kickboxing world title and shoot him to stardom in the world's largest martial arts organization.
And if he does acquire a bigger following with a massive victory, the Brazilian vows that he won't use his platform for selfish reasons.
Instead, he wants to lift up younger athletes who are just starting their own careers in kickboxing.
"I want to be an inspiration to new generations, (just) like the guys I mentioned were inspiration to me when I started," the veteran striker added. "I want them to aim to get where I already am. I want them to understand and see that I have a different game. I want to show that we don’t have to be like anyone else to stand out."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.