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Malaysian MMA Fighter, Theebaan Conquering The Scene Like A True Hero

by Natasha Christopher

With a straight scar line running down through the left side of his face, one would feel terrified. Plus, with his tall, and muscular figure, it puts some of us in an “obedient mode”. As you get to know him more, you’ll realize that the scar happened back when he was two years old during a bicycle incident and you’ll be shocked to know that he’s also a super goofy, love to laugh a lot and a down-to-earth person too. Theebaan Govindasamy or as he’s better known in his Instagram, theebaanmma, started his martial arts journey at the age of 5 and also represented Malaysia in karate for seven years. With that, he has also been crowned the National Karate Champion eight times now. Let’s delve into his background story and what makes him the top amateur welterweight ranked fighter in Southeast Asia till present.
Where did the fighter spirit in you begin?

I would have to say at a very young age, my parents would push me and my three other siblings to pursue fighting and training classes as well. To be honest, I never want to go into this fighting industry in the beginning, because I  never fully loved the idea. Sometimes, I would even fake a stomach ache every now and then to my parents just so I could skip training. Up to the age of 14 years old, I was learning karate. This was in the stage where I was conditioned to do my best no matter what I set my heart out to. The moment my mindset changed into a positive one, my karate master at that time noticed the good things in me and when that particular master compliments you a “good job”, it’s definitely a huge thing. So, I did all I can to impress my master even more. After being in the karate team for seven years now, at 23, I wanted a different kind of fighting experience. My brother, Shangkaraa, was highly infused into the MMA world and I pick it up somewhere along the lines too. Watching more UFC videos on Youtube just prompted me to join the Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA).  From there, I started training in Klinch MMA in Publika and the rest as they say, is history.

What is one of the most difficult challenges in being an MMA fighter?

Truthfully, it’s not about the punches or kicks that is the hard one rather it’s all about the willpower and the focus to keep yourself motivated. There are certain thing parents can do to help out and there is something you have to go through it alone. The moment I knew I wanted to do MMA, the journey was not going to be all rainbows and sunshine. Besides that, it’s also not easy to get the right kind of training in Malaysia. That’s why I have to work double the effort towards getting the whole team together and fighting.

Do you have a certain diet that you have to adhere to? If yes, what is it?

People think I have to go through a strict diet regime when in fact, I don’t follow a certain diet. This is because my training is hard as I train three times a day. Morning is for an MMA session, the afternoon is another gym session and at night I’ll continue with another round of MMA training. With the gruelling workout and in need of high energy foods, I am extremely lucky because I just can eat whatever I can have my hands on from burgers, pizzas, and mamak food. Everything and anything.

What is your signature style on the ring?

I’m highly influenced by karate moves. My signature would be my front kick or it’s known as Mae Geri. It’s a very deceiving type of move. Let’s say for example if the opponent focuses on your face while fighting, then they won’t be concentrated on different parts of your body and also when the kick is coming.
You’ve been fighting for a long time. Is there a certain guilt in you when you’ve hit someone?

During training, yes. When we are fighting and you hear your opponent is bleeding, all you can say is “sorry, bro”. There was another incident where I was fighting with my training partner. In amateur MMA, you can’t elbow your opponent. While I was trying to improve my position because I was on the ground, I accidentally hit my elbow to his head. Even while it happened, I was feeling the guilt and said sorry.  We all know what we signed up for and it’s all in the name of sports, nothing personal.

What separates you from every other fighter there is?

There are knuckleheads and then there is me. Knuckleheads are there to start a brawl and just hit to see who falls first. As for me, I strategize outside of the ring and plan my next moves.

If you can have one dream fight with a person, who would it be?

It definitely is Georges St-Pierre. He’s a karate fighter as well, as a well-rounded MMA fighter. When he is in the ring, I would say he is on par with an Olympic wrestler. It would be a dream come true for me if it ever happens.

Who is your biggest inspiration in life?

I would have to say my biggest inspiration growing up was my brother, Shangkaraa. I was always wanted to live up to his “cool guy” persona while me being the quiet and shy boy in school. Even during karate classes, he would do it better than me and I would mirror after him. Even up to today, if I have certain questions or advice on fighting, I would definitely go to him for any advise. Sometimes, I would ask him to follow me just so he could coach me.

Theebaan with his girlfriend and biggest support system, Darshanaa

Theebaan with his girlfriend and biggest support system, Darshanaa

In everyday life, however, my girlfriend, Darshanaa is my biggest support system. Even if I’m sick or tired, she would call me up and make sure I attend the daily training. With that, she never fails to motivate me every step of the way and helps me to be more disciplined in what I do. Every fight competition that I’m in, she’s always there in my corner together with my coach.  That’s what makes it all better.

In your opinion, what are some of the misconception people have towards MMA fighting?

Biggest conception is that it is a violent sport. Yes, it may look violent because you’re hitting another person but there is a line that you don’t cross too that makes it not violent. For example, if you see your opponent is out, you don’t hit him anymore. Sometimes even if you arm-bar a person (yanking his arm), you can go to the point of where it hurts. If you are in that position, you can easily break it. You only put it in the position of where it hurts enough and he’s going to tap surrender. Unless of course, you hold it for a good minute and he doesn’t tap, then, you have no choice but to release. You don’t want to kill your opponent or even destroy their career at the same time. Key is don’t get angry in a fight. Besides, MMA is a mixture of every martial art that you know that includes into one. For me, that’s the beauty of this sport right here.

During the media launch of Paskal the movie

During the media launch of Paskal the movie

From MMA fighting to expanding your resume to an actor. How did that come about?

About 5 years ago, I was acting in a Tamil movie which my karate master which I spoke about earlier was producing it. He wanted his athletes to act in the movie. At first, I was reluctant because I can’t speak Tamil and I’m certainly not an actor. However, my master convinced me and I gave it a try.

Few years down the road, the same production company calls me up and ask if I wanted to be in another movie. I was just not interested then my girlfriend, Darshanaa told me to pursue it because there are so many opportunities come knocking on my door and it would be a waste if I don’t grab the chance. So, I went to the audition and the casting director loved it and I got the role. This movie name Paskal is a very challenging movie and was inspired by the bravery and heroism of the elite Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) force. We’re even shooting real guns and real training. That’s a great experience for me.

Have a look at Paskal trailer too:

Lastly, what is your advice for those seeking out to pursue a career in sports?

Love the sports that you are into. Work in a logical and functional way to achieve your goals. As for me, I wouldn’t work out for a bodybuilding training because I am into the MMA fighting scene. Never give up after one loss. Use it as a fuel to motivate you further rather than holding you back. Also, always be willing to learn from your experiences and don’t do something that is a cool sport rather something that you love to do.
To follow on his journey to success or updates on future competition, you can check out his Instagram here: theebaanmma.

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