It is not hard to find the people that constantly inspire Andrew Leone, because he surrounds himself with them every single day.
As one of the founders of Bali MMA, Leone didn’t just set out to create the premier training academy in Indonesia, and develop a new generation of martial artists. He wanted to create a home where he could work alongside people who could help him advance in his own career.
It all started with Leone working alongside his older brother Anthony, who has not only been a great sibling, but also the catalyst that got him involved in martial arts in the first place.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, the brothers were both natural athletes with a passion for surfing and wrestling, but they were always attracted to martial arts. However, back then, the siblings had one discipline available to them, and that was karate, so it is exactly what Anthony decided to do. Before long, Leone was following right behind him.
“Me and brother got into this together in 2005, and we started training at first at a karate school,” Leone says ahead of his main event bout with Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR.
“That was the only thing in our town that was outside of wrestling, and I remember going to wrestling practice, and my coach would laugh at me because I would leave 10 minutes early to go to karate practice. That was when we were 14, or 15 years old. Then Anthony got a car, so slowly we started driving to other places. Anthony has been a big inspiration since the beginning, just pushing me to that level.”
Anthony found his way into the cage at an earlier age than his younger sibling, but eventually, both brothers would compete in the same sport, yet follow separate paths when it came to their training and preparation.
With a passion to learn more about the different forms of martial arts, Leone decided to move across the globe in 2010. He initially worked and trained in Thailand, before moving to Singapore to teach wrestling and train. Following which, he then joined Thailand’s Phuket Top Team as a wrestling coach in 2013.
By that time, Anthony had followed his younger brother to Asia, and the pair linked up together in Phuket. In 2014, however, the duo helped Steve Suryadinata jumpstart the Brazilian jiu-jitsu program at Jakarta Muay Thai and MMA.
Later that October, alongside Suryadinata and Don Carlo-Clauss, they brought their dream gym — Bali MMA — to life.
The gym, tucked in the heart of paradise in Indonesia, soon became a hotbed for athletes in the area looking to take their skills to the next level under the sibling pair.
Perhaps the most important teacher at the facility is Carlo-Clauss. He is a former competitor himself, and serves as the head coach of Bali MMA. For Leone, he is one of the biggest inspirations in his career, and has been for quite some time.
“Donnie [Carlo-Clauss], our head coach, is somebody I looked up to when I was younger,” Leone explains.
“He was a two-time New York state wrestling champion. Undefeated in his senior year [of high school], the fourth-ranked recruit into the University of Virginia, and a two-time national qualifier. That is the kind of guy that is in the room every day giving directions, and telling us what we have to do.”
Also, they have added a slew of other world-class trainers to help build the team into one of the best gyms in all of Asia. Some of those trainers include BJJ coach João Paulo, and striking coach Mike Ikilei.
Between that star cast of coaches, as well as a growing competition team, Leone does not have to look far to find inspiration. The American just has to look at the person next to him on the mats to remember why he started competing in the first place.
“I am constantly inspired by my teammates – the Subba brothers, [Muhammad] Aiman, my wife, coach Mike – I am constantly inspired. That inspiration keeps going,” Leone explains.
“We are pretty lucky to have the people we have on our mats everyday, and I am not even naming a quarter of them. I could get real emotional, and get crazy right now. There have been chapters of inspiration.”
Hopefully for Leone, that incredible environment he has built around him will lead him to another shot at the ONE Bantamweight World Title. But first, he has to get past an incredible knockout artist in Belingon in Manila on 20 April.
Manila | 20 April | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onehonor18