The fight of his life

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The fight of his life 1

DAMON SOO’S life could have taken a very dark turn, because as he puts it: “Throughout my childhood, no one guided me nor helped me find myself, or my passion.”

Now 33 years old, Soo has spent the greater part of his adult life as a professional fighter. In 2018, he became the first Malaysian to win in two MIMMA weight divisions.

However, before he became involved in fisticuffs within the ring, Soo was on a very different career path.

A different path

“Before I began fighting, I did commercial and residential real estate for about three years after studying for a Diploma in Business,” he said.

Prior to that, Soo was enrolled in an advertising college. He claims the switch in study fields was due to his family.

“I never really wanted to study in the first place; I wanted to work. They told me I at least had to finish college,” he said.

Speaking to him, a picture began to form: Soo was a person who grew up with limited – if any – options beyond following his family’s whims.

“My parents are old school, and they were never really loving, nor cared much about bringing up a child. All they thought was as long as they provide education and food, that was enough,” he explained.

He did not have a happy childhood, nor was he guided as he was growing up.

“I was very lost when I was young. When it came to school, I used to skip school and all those kinds of things.”

And much like other professional fighters out there, his experience of being bullied in school when he was younger played a role in instinctively drawing him to martial arts and fighting.

From nothing to something

“I had zero experience before I started,” Soo claimed, pointing out that he started training late, at the age of 26.

“Usually [a fighter’s prime is between] 20 to 30 years old, and they start training [when they are] younger.”

At the time, mixed martial arts was not the worldwide phenomenon it is today, but Muay Thai was popular. So when Soo decided to begin his journey to become a fighter, he chose to train in Muay Thai first.

His coach at the time could not find a fight for him to compete in. Out of frustration, Soo then joined Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA), described as the largest amateur mixed martial arts platform in Asia.

“At that time, MIMMA was promoting that anyone could just sign up, try out and if they get chosen, they can fight in the ring. So that’s how I started my martial arts journey.”

Unlike Muay Thai fights and competitions, MIMMA required fighters to be well-versed in several forms of martial arts.

“As striking alone in MMA isn’t enough, I started training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ),” he said.

“I knew of grappling but it never came across as something I wanted to try one day, and it did not interest me because at that time I preferred to strike instead of grapple or wrestle with someone.”

According to him, after he began training in BJJ, he unexpectedly fell in love with it more than any other fighting form.

Narrowing down options

Since 2018, Soo has been focusing more on BJJ instead. He faced another set of hurdles after his sponsor ended his sponsorship: he had to find a source of income to support his love for the sport.

As he puts it, training in MMA requires a lot of time, as fighters will need to arm themselves with the technical proficiencies of striking, grappling and wrestling.

“I did not have the time to train in all three, not unless I could do it full-time. But if I did that, I won’t have any source of income. Currently, my income comes from teaching BJJ. [Previously], I had savings from when I was a real estate agent. I was funding myself for a while just training full-time and using my savings.”

This is the reason why Soo is currently concentrating on BJJ competitions, as it allows him to work and compete without having to train in so many forms of martial arts.

Pushing onward

As his family initially disagreed with his current pathway, Soo cites his coach Aaron Goh as his main support, and his guide over the past half-decade or so.

“He asked me from the start whether this was something I really wanted to do, and he told me that it wouldn’t be easy,” he says.

Admirable as his journey has been, Soo’s persistence in constantly moving forward comes from him drawing upon the negative aspects of his past.

“When I was younger, I always had a love for sports and getting active. I was not allowed to play so much, maybe once a week, and after a while, it got worse. My motivation comes from being able to do something I love to do and the choice to be able to do what I want to.”

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