On Friday, September 25th, Crazy 88 fighter Keemaan Diop made a successful debut at Lion Fight 24 and improved his Muay Thai kickboxing record to 9-2 by defeating Julian Nguyen, the 2015 WKA champion.
As we walked to the ring through the silent crowd, you could clearly hear the walkout song “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers . Then our opponent, Julian walked out and the crowd cheered thunderously. In the opening round, it was back and forth as they exchanged combinations and fast kicks to the body and head. During rounds two and three, Diop hurt his opponent with a knee to the body and a lighting fast right cross. Keemaan silenced the crowd with his tenacious attacks and tight defense resulting in the win.
This was not a job done in one night but rather many months of hard training leading up to the fight. Let’s rewind back to almost a year ago.
On October 25th, 2014, after his loss via split decision at Thai Championship Boxing (TCB 9). Keemaan Diop lost his 155 pound championship belt and he dropped his amateur record to 5-2. After the fight, he ended up not competing for almost 8 months. During his time off there were a few life changes he made that improved his Muay Thai tremendously.
First, he went from training four times a week to a consistent six times a week. Numbers don’t lie because if you train four times a week, that is 16 classes a month and 208 over a year. If you train six times a week, that’s 24 classes a month and 312 times over a year. That means he would have trained 104 more classes in a course of a year and this extra time made his overall game better. He also tried to be more focused by eliminating obstacles in life that were distracting him from training. Athletes and fighters cannot perform to the best of their abilities when they are distracted or burdened by external stress factors. These stress factors may be as simple as going out with friends, family obligations, or staying up too late at night. Sometimes, to make gains in certain area of your life, you have to simplify your life and reduce distractions.
Almost eight months later, the renewed and recharged Keemaan went on a competition grind where he fought four times in four months. On July 1st, he fought at American Muay Thai League against an opponent with twice as many fights and was able to win by Technical Knock Out (TKO) via leg kicks. Then two weeks later on July 18th, he went up to New York and beat an undefeated 3-0 opponent via Unanimous Decision. The tipping point came at his Revolutions Fight Series (RFS) on August 8th, when he stopped his opponent via leg kicks and won the 155 pound RFS Championship Belt. This gave him the media attention that he needed to be put i\on the undercard of the most prestigious Muay Thai promotion in the United States, Lion Fight.
The highlight of attending the Lion Fight, besides his victory, was watching the professional card. The guards of the professionals were amazingly tight; their attacks were violently deliberate, and their combinations flowed seamlessly. As he watched the professionals fight, Keemaan saw the improvements he needed to make. After assessing his fight and the professionals, he has a new fire to become better than the professionals who fought that night. He said, “I have a lot of work to do and I have a long road to get to their level, but I am excited for the journey and I want to be better than these fighters!”
With that statement, I know he will be back training at Crazy 88 more focused and hungrier to become a better fighter. Through hard work, determination, and a great team behind him, we can expect to one day see Keemaan Diop fight in Lion Fight as a Professional.