Once upon a time, Hisyam Samsudin was a chubby kid from Malaysian Borneo. The 100-kilogram child’s only strenuous exercise was getting up to use the bathroom. That person no longer exists.
Today, Samsudin clocks in at a trim 71 kilograms, and is an Asian boxing champion and professional martial artist who is competing in ONE Championship.
The reason for his weight problem was simple: before taking up time in the gym, the athlete now called “Zephyrus” had an early love of food.
“When I was a kid, I was not very active. I was just chilling at home. I was shy. I did not really talk to people,” Samsudin reminisces. “I enjoyed eating. It was not candy, though. It was food like rice, chicken, and all the oily stuff.”
Things began to change in high school. Samsudin began to envy friends who were dating. To make himself more physically appealing, he played football as a means to shed the excess weight.
Without the right motivation, it proved to be a failure. “After I played, I would go and eat again,” he explains. “I would lose one kilogram, but gain two just by eating.”
Martial arts turned out to be the breakthrough the young man needed. Samsudin attended university in Kota Kinablu in 2009. While there, he wandered into a local gym and met AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor, a man who would eventually become ONE’s Featherweight Malaysia Tournament Champion.
“He trained me in Muay Thai first, slowly,” Samsudin remembers. “The only reason I followed A.J. (Mansor) was because I wanted to lose weight, not compete.”
However, Samsudin’s mind began to lean towards competition as he got deeper into martial arts. What started with Muay Thai evolved into Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. The twice-daily workouts evolved from private lessons in Mansor’s home to the now renowned Borneo Tribal Squad in 2013.
It was Mansor who provided the final push needed to get Samsudin from the gym to the cage. The coach asked his pupil flatly if he wanted to compete. “Zephyrus” accepted the challenge, and is now a senior member of Borneo Tribal Squad, along with ONE superstar and Asian women’s martial arts pioneer Ann “Athena” Osman.
Two years after “Zephyrus” racked up some experience in Thailand’s Full Metal Dojo promotion, he made his ONE debut in September 2016, but ultimately dropped a unanimous decision to fellow countryman “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman.
The Borneo Tribal Squad member hopes to rebound at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY on Saturday, 16 September. He meets Jeremy “Predator” Meciaz in a featherweight tilt, live from Indonesia’s Jakarta Convention Center.
Despite Meciaz’ specialty being Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Samsudin is focused on other areas of the bout. Namely, where he holds advantages.
“I am not really worried about the ground. Against Meciaz, I will try to get the knockout,” Samsudin says. “Standing, striking, or on the ground, I foresee no problem. If I cannot hit him, I will choke him out.”
Win or lose, Samsudin has come a long way from the portly kid he used to be. He still wonders what his life would have amounted to had he not stumbled across Mansor that day in the gym.
“If A.J. (Mansor) did not ask me about competing in martial arts, I do not think I would be. Maybe I would be in Tawau right now, doing business with my parents, and still being fat,” he says with a chuckle. “I might be 100 kilograms again.”
That chance encounter paid off for Samsudin outside the cage, too. In February 2016, Samsudin stepped in for an injured Thai competitor in a four-man boxing tournament in Singapore.
The short-notice gamble paid off, as Samsudin, despite coming in underweight, won the tournament. He is now the first Malaysian to hold the WBF Asia-Pacific Light Heavyweight title.
He awaits his first defense, but first, he needs to secure a win over Meciaz at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY.