After a 15-year career featuring a host of world titles, Dutch-Surinamese star Sergio “Samurai” Wielzen will face his toughest test as he competes for the most prestigious prize of his decorated career.
Wielzen will take on Muay Thai superstar Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for the inaugural ONE Super Series Muay Thai Flyweight World Championship on Friday, 18 May at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore.
Victory would crown an already glittering career with yet another accolade and mark another milestone in a journey that began in his childhood.
Wielzen was born raised in Suriname until he was eight years of age.
“It was almost like ‘The Jungle Book’ story – I was Mowgli,” he laughs.
“I had a crazy amount of freedom for a kid. I would be fishing, climbing trees, and catching birds – all that sort of stuff.”
Sadly, his parents separated when he was just eight, and his mother took the decision to move to the Netherlands, taking her children with her.
The change of culture came as a bit of a shock to Wielzen, who initially struggled to settle in his new country.
“My mum is the boss, and she decided for me and my brother,” he explains.
“I was a bit flabbergasted. It was so cold. I was not happy about being there, and school was a big change of environment from the slower pace in Surinam.”
The initial shock gradually wore off, however, and Wielzen gradually settled into life in the Netherlands as he made new friends, some of whom remain a part of his life today.
As a youngster settling into his new home, Wielzen didn’t have many hobbies or pastimes, but he did become fascinated by martial arts. He watched films and documentaries about samurai warriors and Shaolin monks, but it wasn’t until he watched an old documentary about female Muay Thai athletes that his interest was seriously piqued.
He then visited a gym frequented by a relative, and watched the likes of Tyrone Spong and Alistair Overeem training. It was an impressive sight, and lit a fire inside Wielzen.
“From that day, I fell in love with the sport,” he says.
“It looked like (Japanese Anime series) ‘Dragon Ball Z’ to me, and I was amazed.”
Money was tight, so Wielzen found it difficult to maintain a regular training regimen because of the gym fees, but he kept working hard and eventually made his debut in the Muay Thai ring.
“I won my first bout by stoppage,” he says.
“The other guy’s corner pulled him out because I was putting it on him. It was a great feeling.”
Wielzen then threw himself into his training in a bid to become the very best he could be. But then, disaster struck.
One day, Wielzen took a ride home after training on the back of his friend’s scooter, but they crashed in the rainy conditions, throwing Wielzen into the ground.
“I put my hands out to try and break my fall and badly damaged them,” he says.
“I also badly damaged my hip, so kicking and punching was difficult.”
Despite his injuries, Wielzen refused to withdraw from his next bout, which he eventually lost by decision.
“Me and my opponent were the only guys on the poster,” he explains.
“I could not cancel. It was a big deal. It was one of my weak points – injured or not, I just continued. I did what I could with what I had. Mentally, it made me much stronger.
“I know if I believe in myself, I can do anything. You can knock me down and hurt me, but I am not going to stay down. I am going to stand up and keep coming.”
That level of commitment and determination has been a hallmark of Wielzen’s career. Indeed, he explains that his motto is “never give up”.
That indefatigable spirit helped “Samurai” to a host of world championships throughout his career, including the Lion Fight Lightweight World Championship, the It’s Showtime World Championship and two W5 World Championships.
Despite those impressive achievements, Wielzen is still looking to add more titles to his list.
“I always see the next bout as the biggest one,” he explains.
“I dedicate myself to each one. That is my mindset. There are a lot of things you cannot control in life, but I knew I could do something big in this sport if I kept my focus.”
His next test sees him challenge for gold in ONE Championship, when he takes on Sam-A Gaiyanghadao for the inaugural ONE Super Series Muay Thai Flyweight World Title.
Defeating the Thai icon would give him an indelible place in ONE history as the first-ever ONE Super Series World Champion.
“This is going to be the biggest title I will be taking home,” he declares.
“The opponent and the title give me a lot of motivation and a lot of focus. ONE Championship is a crazy big organisation, and they will give me the chance to show the world what I can do.”