It is often inferred that our lives are shaped by our upbringing and events that we went through in our younger years. Our past is what defines us, as it were.

Saiful Merican wasn’t always on the path to become a professional fighter, and as an impressionable youngster, it only took one display of combat sports for him to find out what was going to become his passion in life. It may sound simple enough, but that’s all it took for Merican to know what path he was going to travel.

“It all started with me watching a Muay Thai fight when I was 10 years old,” Merican revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “At 12, I began to fight in local tournaments, and [I] have been fighting since. It is the only sport I have ever loved. My late father kept pushing me towards football, but I had no interest. I grew up in Terengganu, my father’s hometown. It is near the coastline and far away from the city. All we had to train with was an old beat-up heavy bag, and [we had to] train Muay Thai on the sand.”

After the first hit connected with that old heavy bag and the sand worked its way between his toes, it didn’t take long for Merican to make a decision that was going to shape the rest of his life.

Merican (ONE FC)

Merican (ONE FC)

“I have dedicated my life to fighting,” he said. “I knew this was the career path I chose, and I have no regrets. If I am not fighting, I teach at my gym, Merican Muay Thai. I opened the gym together with my wife. We both train Muay Thai and wanted to share our knowledge and expertise with others. So far, I can say it has been a success. Our students are one family.”

The sport of mixed martial arts is full of unique fighter nicknames, but “The Vampire” isn’t exactly a name that you would associate with a professional fighter. Rest assured, though, it wasn’t the consumption of blood that gave him his name.

“The nickname came from one of my fans because of my fighting style,” Merican said. “I drew blood from my opponents. I like it because it’s easy to remember and everyone identifies me with that name now.”

Although he has his own gym that he calls home, Merican is open to training at the best places that are going to see him continually develop as a fighter. With ONE FC 12 taking place in Malaysia, where his gym is based, it may not make sense to some as to why he made the trek to Thailand to prepare for his camp. However, Merican knows all too well the importance of good preparation leading into a fight.

“I trained here [at Tiger Muay Thai] before for my last MMA fight,” he explained. “I believe Tiger Muay Thai Camp Phuket has the complete team for me to improve my MMA skills. I think about all the hard work I put in towards the fight and tell myself, ‘Okay Saiful, this is it. Just do your best and the rest is up to God.’”

Going into his second appearance inside the ONE FC cage, Merican has the luxury of once again fighting in the city that he calls home. All three of his professional bouts have taken place in Malaysia.

Merican (L) throws a kick (ONE FC)

Merican (L) throws a kick (ONE FC)

“I love it when [I] am fighting at home, because of the tremendous support I get from friends, family and the crowd at the stadium,” he said. “At the same time, I get equally nervous and pressured to do my best and come out with a win. The fans can expect non-stop action from me in the cage. I am thrilled to be back in ONE FC and will do my very best.”

It could almost be called a lasting impression. That one early life experience of combat sports has remained with Merican forever, and it’s something that will continue to be with him until the day finally comes for him to hang up the gloves. And whilst that first heavy bag hanging over the sand may be long gone now, the passion to become the best martial artist still remains.

Saiful would like to thank his main sponsor, EWS Services Sdn Bhd, for putting their trust in him. He would also like to thank Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket for sponsoring his training there, and also Leverage Academy in Kuala Lumpur. Follow Merican on Twitter: @saifuldevampire

Top Photo: Saiful Merican (ONE FC)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.