What does it take to be a World Champion?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a World Champion? When you read the newspaper about UFC World Champion BJ Penn, do you ever wonder what it takes? Are World Champions built like the rest of us? Or is there some magic ingredient? Are World Champions made or born?

Here are the responses from some of our World Champions and certified Instructors who teach at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts, the #1 MMA gym in Singapore and one of the top in Asia:

"In my career of almost 300 professional fights, I can tell you that there are 3 things that make the difference between a World Champion and an average fighter. First, it is the love of the game. I can see it in every fighter's eyes. If you truly love something, you are willing to do anything for it. You are willing to endure all odds and sacrifices. This love is the starting point of every great Champion. When I fight someone in a very tough battle, I can feel how much or how little they love it. Love is everything. Secondly, every Champion has heart. Heart is a very difficult thing to determine. You either have the heart of a Champion or you don't. It is not bravery. It is not the lack of fear. It is the ability to conquer your fears and the ability to take your body, mind, and spirit to its limits without breaking down. This concept is something that 99% of the population never get to experience. When you take your body, mind, and spirit to its limits, it is almost a zen-like peaceful state. It is almost like I am surrendering myself to something greater than myself. It is a surreal experience. Third, I think luck or fate plays a very important role. I know many fighters who were unbelievable and who had all the qualities to be a Champion, but they never made it due to bad luck. For example, one guy who trained with me since we were kids was #4 in the world. Kongpattaya Sityodtong was 1 fight away from fighting for the Lumpinee World Championship when he accidentally fractured his shin in a fight. He was never the same and eventually retired soon after. Kongpattaya was an amazing fighter who could have been Champion, but he just had bad luck. For me, when I look back at my career, I cannot believe how lucky I have been. I started when I was 6 years old with big dreams and no idea how long or hard the journey would be. I cannot tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep or how many times I wanted to quit. I trained 6 hours a day, 6 days a week for 15 years straight before I won the World Championship. And believe me, I had many low points in my career where no one believed in me anymore. But in the end, my love for Muay Thai gave me the strength to move forward."

-Nuengpichit Sityodtong, Lumpinee Muay Thai World Champion

"In BJJ, many things need to happen in order to be a World Champion. I love what I do. This is the most important thing. I work very hard. I train every day. I am mentally strong. I have the best instructors and training partners. If you train with the best, you will become the best. You see, it takes many things to make a World Champion."

-Antonio Braga Neto, 2008 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion

"I have grown up with Muay Thai all of my life as a student, a fighter, and a teacher. I can tell you that there is a huge difference between a World Champion and an average Muay Thai fighter. For example, a few years ago, Yoddecha was in the middle of a very tough fight with an excellent opponent. He was quite bruised and battered from the fight and I could tell that his right knee was hurting for some reason. In the 3rd round, Yoddecha threw a right kick and his knee came completely out from its socket. As you can imagine, the pain was unbearable. However, rightly or wrongly, he refused to quit. I can tell you that 99% of professional fighters would have quit on the spot. He fought the rest of the fight with one leg and won by KO eventually. I often wonder to this day about how much Yoddecha must love Muay Thai to withstand such pain. Yoddecha and I have been friends for more than 20 years ever since we started Muay Thai together at the Sityodtong Gym in Thailand. And I can tell you - he has always been special and different. Champions are born, but they must be made by other Champions. To be a Champion, you need the right genetics, you need world-class training, and you need a heart of a lion."

-Chatri Sityodtong, certified Muay Thai instructor from the legendary Sityodtong Gym