The towering giant from Sabah, Darren is a Brzailian Jiujitsu specialist. In 2014 MIMMA2 Darren chalk up all his wins by submission, and all ended in round 1.
In the finals of 2014 he met Zulhanizam of Selangor to fight for the heavyweight title which was vacated by Adrian Tham of Sabah. Darren knowing his opponent is strong in MuayThai managed to take him down and got a Kimura that ended the fight. Crowning him the heavyweight belt.
Defending his Heavyweight title against Niker Tan from Penang will see Darren facing another striker. Niker has a record of 6-0-0. Having 4 KO/TKO from that record. Darren will look to neutralise Niker’s stand upo game with his superior grappling, but Darren has also sharpen his striking, so perhaps we may see a slug fest of the giants or maybe another quick ending submission from the Sabahan.
Darren has an intimidating look, but deep down he is a gentle giant. But come fight night, he will be a beast and will make sure the belt stays with Sabah this coming Saturday.
How old are you this year?
27 years on earth with the face of a 40 year old, soul of a 50 year old, injuries of a 60 year old and heart of an 18 year old.
Since when did u pick up martial arts?were u the typical type who did karate/TKD in school?
My first ever martial art was Karate with Michelle Koh (now famous for Zumba in KK). I was about 11 years old and really enjoyed it, but stopped class to take up gymnastics instead. This was 60-70kgs ago.
I later did a bit of Judo with my brother during high school, but I joined in irregularly just for fun.
Since when did u pick up BJJ / MMA?
After a back injury from lifting weights wrongly, I started BJJ as a way to keep active at Ground Zero Academy in Melbourne at the start of 2008 under Rob Williams.
I later moved back to Malaysia for good in 2009 and trained under Marcos Escobar who remains my professor to this day.
I started MMA only last year in 2014 after my old friend ‘Uncle’ Adrian Tham recommended I give MIMMA season 2 a try, since he had a very positive experience from season 1.I took his advice and truly have no regrets.
At the time I had just started training boxing and wanted to test my abilities as a martial artist and fighter.
Were you in the core group of BJJ Borneo that started training at KK YMCA some years back?
Used to train with Allen Chong and the old gang during my University holidays!
This was back in 2008 with just a handful of us forming BJJ Borneo, before we brought in Chico Mendes and affiliated under Checkmat to get proper training, coaching and guidance that saw a small group of friends grow into a full blown competition club; some of the best times ever.
What’s your fight record? Which is your hardest fight so far? Which fight u are most satisfied with?
I’m relatively inexperienced with a 3-0 amateur record and all wins by submission.
My hardest fight was not even a recorded match, but was during the MIMMA season 2 trials against big man Shaiful ‘Badang’ Rosli.Before the trials, I had a grade 3 ligament tear in my right leg and was out of training for almost 2 months: I was deconditioned and utterly out of shape. Not to mention my leg was still injured.
Anyway, the grappling round and pad work was manageable, but during the sparring round I sprained my shoulder from a lack of warm-up, then ate something like eight leg kicks (thankfully to my uninjured leg) and I remember falling down in pain from my injured leg as I went for a sloppy take down.
Luckily I managed to land 2 hooks to the head and that was enough to convince the judges to let me through – very dramatic and emotional stuff.
The fight I’m most satisfied with would have to be my last Championship fight against IjamAsri. I had a great fight camp at AKA Thailand and was guided by renowned coach Marco ‘Sharpei’ Machado. Everything went to plan and we came out with the victory.
What is your favorite techniques?
Don’t really have a favourite technique to be honest.
I seem to catch most of my opponents with shoulder locks for some reason.
Where do you train currently? Which gym do u represent?
Now that I’m based in KL for work, I train at several gyms over in West Malaysia but represent my main gym Marcos Escobar BJJ (shared gym with Street Fight Wing Chun).
I do boxing at Alex’s Gym, MMA work at Klinch, Grappling/Wrestling at Marcos Escobar BJJ and Conditioning work at Pushmore.
Back home in Sabah, I train at Alpha MMA with Allen Chong or at Valor Martial Arts with Richie Ismail.
Did my conditioning work at X45 with Samuel Tan.
I also did boxing with Ferdinand Santos who has now opened up his own gym Aristo Fitness.
You born in which part of Sabah?Tell me a bit on your family background? How many siblings?
I’m a KK ( Kota Kinabalu ) boy, born and raised.
Very fortunate and blessed to have a loving family who feeds me with good food and supports me in all my sports and activities.
Sweetest memories would have to be all my ‘yim cha’ ( tea break ) sessions with old friends, ‘ngiu chap’ ( beef noodles ) lunches, ‘konlau mien’ ( dry noodles ) suppers and monginum ( drinking ) nights!
I train the hardest though! Hahaha!
Work life. How do u find having a day job, having to train & commit to a fight?
Balancing a full time job with training for a fight has been incredibly difficult, but thankfully I have a great team to support me at work and very supportive family who help me out with daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning.
I would definitely like to go Pro in the future, but first I want to go as far as I can as an amateur without contractual obligations.
In preparation for Grand Final, what do u see in Niker Tan that u think u need to be cautious about?
He has great heart and a never give up attitude, so mentally he looks very strong.
How do you find training in West Mal vs in East Mal? Can u get good sparring partner in Malaysia?
I guess that main difference would be the number of foreign coaches that are in West Malaysia and the larger market size (which also means a lot of clowns and jokers pretending to be able to teach).
With MMA being such a new sport in Malaysia, the foreign coaches bring with them such wealth in knowledge and experience to the local scene that I believe is necessary for bringing up the overall level of fighters in Malaysia.
Sabahans are a super tough bunch in general, but it’s hard for many of my friends back home to excel at higher levels due to a lack of guidance – most of the dedicated Sabahan coaches travel overseas to fight camps to learn new techniques and teach their students.
Great sparring partners are available in Malaysia for sure, but usually at different gyms.
As a heavyweight, do u particularly watch your food?
Besides trying my best to cut out fried, processed and sugary foods, I also try to eat just enough to give me energy for training and recovery.
Eating too much seems to put too much of a strain on my digestive system and makes me slow during training, whereas eating too little leads to me overtraining and burning out.
What’s your typical diet like during this one month before fight?
Typical diet consists of grilled meats, canned tuna, salad, yoghurt, whole meal biscuits, rice, pasta, eggs and fruits.
Cheat meals 2-3 times a week usually.
What’s your non diet food? cheat meal?
Is there a MMA personality that u look up to?
I would have to say Jose Aldo. I’ve yet to meet him, but my friends have trained with him and have nothing but good things to say. His fights are exciting and his background story of blood, sweat and tears to go from poverty to the top where he still stays humble and grounded is really admirable.
How do u describe yourself , personality wise….& what’s you principle on life?
I’m just a small town boy chasing big dreams.
If achieving your dreams means having to work extra hard – then do it as long as it doesn’t kill you.
What motivates u to fight?
I fight because I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to face my fears and the limits of what my body and mind can achieve.
The MMA scene here has so much potential because LOCAL MALAYSIANS want MMA!
If you look at places like Thailand, despite being renowned for MMA, it’s the foreigners who want MMA, not the locals! So how far can the sport actually go there in the long term with the exception of tourist revenue from Phuket?
Singapore is experiencing a surge in talent rushing into its Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene and it’s already produced some legit home grown athletes.
I sincerely hope Malaysia follows the same path!
Borneo has some serious talent around – not just in MMA but for so many other sports.
However, realistically spending power and market size is a real struggle for many of the gym owners back home.
Due to lower profits, it is very difficult for the privately owned gyms to afford foreign coaches, and as such, it’s harder for the more advanced students to progress as fast.
This is all just according to my personal opinion of course.
What is your opinion on MIMMA?
It’s been an amazing experience and I really take my hats off to all the crew involved who have done, in my opinion, a fantastic job (no I’m not getting paid to say this).
People can say whatever they want, but at the end of the day, the MMA scene in Malaysia wouldn’t be making the progress it’s had without MIMMA. Period.
Anything that makes you proud as a Sabahan?
VERYTHING about Sabah makes me proud to be Sabahan…
…except the HORRIBLE drivers in KK.
PLEASSSSSE for the love of our identity, learn to drive!!! Hahaha!!!