American knockout artist Matthew “Sobek” Semper (56-22-1) is on his way to ONE Super Series and looking to add another few frames to his highlight reel.
Semper, who has an astonishing 41 knockouts from his 56 career wins, will bring his brand of heavy-handed kickboxing to the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
He will make his ONE Championship debut against Australia’s Elliot “The Dragon” Compton (45-11) in a ONE Super Series lightweight kickboxing bout at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR on Friday, 29 June.
It is the culmination of a journey that has taken him from the Bronx to the heart of Asia.
As a youngster growing up in New York City, Semper took part in any and every sport he could.
“I was really active in sports,” said the 30-year-old.
“I was doing track and field, and I played hockey, football, basketball, and baseball. I was a big team sports guy.”
However, as he started to enter his teens, he discovered a more sedentary way to spend his time – video games.
“Towards the later years in high school, I started picking up gaming,” he explains.
“’World of Warcraft’ just came out. I got addicted. It became a real addiction the way that people would take drugs. Gaming was my drug, and I stopped doing everything else.”
His addiction resulted in him halting his athletic endeavours as he spent countless hours in front of his computer screen looking to become a success in the gaming world.
“When you have the ability to get famous from something you do that is easy for you, you just go with it,” he says.
“I was playing throughout high school – time started freeing up and I had fewer classes, and gaming became a part of me. ‘World of Warcraft’ really took off for me.”
Once he graduated, Semper took a job as a graphic designer, which meant he spent even more time in front of the screen than before.
His family became worried about his health after his weight increased significantly.
“I did not see that. I thought I was just growing. I was just out of high school,” he says.
“But when I went to a Christening and I saw pictures of myself, I could not recognise myself in the photos. That was a big shock to me.
“From that day forward, I quit my job, but I could not just quit gaming. Like any other addiction, you have to break it down and not go cold turkey.
“I gave myself a few weeks, and then I just cut myself off completely and started training in Muay Thai.”
It proved to be a life-changing decision.
Semper’s desire for activity and athletic endeavours soon returned and he made it his mission to lose weight and get back into shape.
His choice of Muay Thai came from his love of the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie “Kickboxer”.
“I wanted to get fit, and I had to get healthy again,” he says.
“I had to find a gym, and a gym that was well known in the area that I was hanging out in was Five Points Academy. I started everything up there. A few people caught onto what I was doing, and they were very supportive.”
He trained in Manhattan and eventually travelled over to the birthplace of the sport to train at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. He stayed there for 18 months before returning home.
Upon his return, he knew he had unfinished business in Thailand. As a result, he made the life-changing decision to move out east and launch his career as a professional.
Now, 56 bouts and two titles later – the PK-1 Super Heavyweight Title and the AMCO Cruiserweight Title – Semper arrives in ONE to showcase his skills.
“I have been working very hard over the last couple of years,” he says.
“I definitely feel like I can be part of this organisation as a big name. Hopefully, I will be able to get a World Title shot and take home one of those belts.”
His first test will see him take on Australia’s Compton in a bout where both men share mutual respect, but also both recognise the need to impress on the big stage.
It has all the ingredients of an exciting kickboxing matchup.
“I think it will be a challenge for him, and I think he will be a challenge for me,” he says.
“We both know the same people. We are cool. We have spoken and we said, ‘Let’s get it on and get Fight of the Night.’ We are going to go in there and just go hard.”