Darren Low is arguably the biggest MMA fighter in Malaysia today.
The reigning Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight champion stands at well over six-feet tall and weighs in at around 240 pounds, but the native of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah will step back into the MIMMA cage this Saturday a very different fighter.
A former competitive weightlifter and rugby player, Low has since given up his former pursuits and focused instead on agility drills, calisthenics and plyometrics – a technique also known as jump training.
“I had a bit of speed naturally from competing in power lifting and rugby in my younger days, but adapting my abilities and conditioning myself for MMA took a lot of work,” he told ROUGH.
“I also started doing a lot more active recovery work and stretching – the reduced stiffness gave me better movement when I needed it. Still, compared to some of the professionals I’ve trained with, I’ve got a very long way to go.”
IT’S A SPORT THAT HAS AFFECTED MY LIFE IN WAYS BEYOND WHAT I COULD IMAGINE.
Come this weekend, Low will meet Niker Tan, another undefeated amateur fighter who will bring a more aggressive style of striking to the match and has finished two of his three fights via ground and pound.
Low, a Jiu-Jitsu purple belt, has finished all three of his past fights via submission, impressively one by a standing submission, but says he is a much more rounded fighter and will be prepared for anything Tan has to throw at him.
“I’ve been working a lot on my striking fundamentals over the last year and feel like a much more well rounded fighter than in my last fight, at least defensively.
“After the initial feeling out process, I’ll work hard and try push the fight where I feel most comfortable, whether standing or on the ground.”
As well as being Malaysia’s biggest MMA fighter, Low is probably the hardest working.
Throughout all his preparation for Saturday’s Grand Finale, Low has continued to work full time and it looks like it will remain that way for some time yet.
“Going into MMA full time would be a dream come true for me. Unfortunately, what I would like to do and what I must do are currently mutually exclusive,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s definitely a great passion of mine and a sport that has affected my life in ways beyond what I could imagine.”
Unlike past years where he has headed abroad to train, Low this year decided to remain in Malaysia for his title defense and mixed up his training with a variety of gyms and sparring partners.
This included grappling at Marcos Escobar BJJ, Boxing at Alex’s Gym, MMA specific work with David Hulett at Klinch MMA and Conditioning work at Pushmore.
And despite a heavy work load, he heads into his fight feeling at the top of his game.
“I was a little lazy with my dieting (I can’t help it, I’m Malaysian), but otherwise feeling better than I’ve ever been.
“Amazingly, I’ve been virtually injury free this whole year, with the only hindrance to my training being work related and the recent haze (from Indonesia burning its forest) messing up my sinuses.”
Win or lose this weekend – Low says he will continue to fight as an amateur for a number of reasons – namely keeping things fun and flexible as possible.
“If you’re going to do something, do it well. I’ve been fortunate enough to train with professionals at the highest level and know where I stand. I feel I need more time to develop my game and have a long way to go as an amateur.
“Not having any contractual obligations keeps things fun and easy going – so that’s definitely something I’d prefer.”
As the industry of MMA in Malaysia continues to grow, Low said he is excited about its future.
“The MMA scene in Malaysia truly is fascinating and specifically has amazing potential in South East Asia due to the fact that it is so strongly supported by local Malaysians.
“We have sports ministries giving official support and amazing platforms like MIMMA. I sincerely believe that the most important step in taking Malaysia’s standard of MMA to the next level is to invest in quality coaching.”
For now though he is happy to keep pushing himself to train and improve.
“I’m just another guy trying to be the best he can be.”
Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts Grand Finale will broadcast live online at malaysianinvasion.com.
Catch the weigh-ins on 9 October live at malaysianinvasion.com.