Features

Matthew Semper's Journey From Overweight Gamer To Muay Thai Champion

June 22, 2018

Matthew “Sobek” Semper (56-22-1) is ready to bring his thrilling style of striking to ONE Super Series.

On Friday, 29 June, the American knockout artist will make his promotional debut against Australian striker Elliot “The Dragon” Compton (45-11) at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR.

They are scheduled to clash in a lightweight kickboxing showdown at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

Semper is known for his immense power, which has led to an astonishing 41 knockouts, and he is looking to score his 42nd at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.

As event night approaches, take this opportunity to learn more about the man known as “Sobek.”

A Bronx Tale

Long before he picked up a pair of gloves, Semper was a normal kid living in the Bronx – a New York City borough known to have the most diverse population in the entire United States.

He was a lifelong athlete, although none of his early aspirations for sports had anything to do with martial arts.

“I was really active in sports,” the 30-year-old begins.

“I was doing track and field, and I played hockey, football, basketball, and baseball. I was a big team sports guy.”

As athletic as he was growing up, Semper’s attention soon switched to a different kind of competition – one that kept him away from the city’s parks and fields.

“Towards the later years in high school, I started picking up gaming,” he reveals.

“’World of Warcraft’ just came out. I got addicted. It became a real addiction the way that people would take drugs. Gaming was my drug, and I stopped doing everything else.”

Stepping Away From The Computer

Semper’s addiction was serious, and began to affect his health. He remained in front of his computer screen from early in the morning till late at night.

“When you have the ability to get famous from something you do that is easy for you, you just go with it,” he explains.

“I was playing throughout high school – time started freeing up and I had fewer classes, and gaming became a part of me. ‘World of Warcraft’ really took off for me.”

Following graduation, Semper worked as a graphic designer, and spent even more time in front of the computer.

The teen’s gaming addiction continued for the better part of four years. His parents were worried about his health, and expressed their concerns to him.

“Sobek” realized he had gained some weight, but believed his mother and father were blowing things out of proportion.

“I did not see that. I thought I was just growing. I was just out of high school,” he says.

“But when I went to a Christening and I saw pictures of myself, I could not recognize myself in the photos. That was a big shock to me.

“From that day forward, I quit my job, but I could not just quit gaming. Like any other addiction, you have to break it down and not go cold turkey. I gave myself a few weeks, and then I just cut myself off completely and started training in Muay Thai.”

A New Career Is Born

Semper was proud of his athletic past and was determined to drop the weight, and get back in shape.

After he quit gaming, he took inspiration from his childhood fascination with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s classic martial arts film “Kickboxer.” He decided to use Muay Thai as a way to lose the unwanted kilograms.

“I wanted to get fit, and I had to get healthy again,” he says.

“I had to find a gym, and a gym that was well known in the area that I was hanging out in was Five Points Academy. I started everything up there. A few people caught onto what I was doing, and they were very supportive.”

“Sobek” frequented the gym in the neighboring borough of Manhattan, and became hooked on “the art of eight limbs.” That drove him to the heart of the culture.

In 2008, he took a lead from  Van Damme’s “Kickboxer” character Kurt Sloane, and traveled to Thailand. He trained at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket for a year and a half, and then returned to the United States.

However, Semper quickly realized there was only one place he wanted to live, and make the best of his Muay Thai and kickboxing career. He permanently relocated to Thailand in 2010, and continued training at Tiger Muay Thai so he could launch his career as a professional.

The Bronx-born striker has had 56 bouts since, and captured gold, winning the PK-1 Super Heavyweight Title and the AMCO Cruiserweight Title.

Big Goals For A Big Man

As Semper prepares for his kickboxing match-up at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR, he is anxious to show off his skills and prove he can be a mainstay in ONE Super Series.

“I have been working very hard over the last couple of years,” he says.

“I definitely feel like I can be part of this organization as a big name. Hopefully, I will be able to get a World Title shot and take home one of those belts.”

First, he must defeat four-time World Caged Muay Thai Champion Elliot “The Dragon” Compton. “Sobek” is friendly with his opponent, but that will not stop him from going on the attack.

Not only does Semper want to leave the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium with a flawless victory, he wants to put on the most exciting contest of the evening.

“I think it will be a challenge for him, and I think he will be a challenge for me,” the New Yorker explains.

“We both know the same people. We are cool. We have spoken and we said, ‘Let’s get it on and get Fight of the Night.’ We are going to go in there and just go hard.”

Yangon | 29 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super Apphttp://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast