Rob Lisita is a changed man.
After a few recent stumbles, the Australian mixed martial artist plans to get back on the winning track as meets Ev Ting in the main event of ONE: Unbreakable Warriors on 2 September at the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Lisita isn’t just looking to win, however. The 33-year-old wants to make a definitive statement against an opponent who has been acting quite arrogant as of late.
“He’s a decent guy, but we’re not friends now. We can be friends after [the fight], but I’m going out there to kill him, so he might not be able to live through it,” Lisita says.
“He’s a good fighter. He’s done well in ONE. He’s pretty full of himself right now, you know.
“He’s gonna be cocky in the cage and I think he’s gonna underestimate me, but if he’s not ready for the hardest fight of his life, he’s in for a rough night. It’s going to be an early night for him. But if he is, we might go to war. We might have a good fight for the fans, but I’m coming out on top.”
To be fair, Ting is extra-confident and he has every reason to feel that way. The Malaysian-bred, New Zealand-based fighter known as “E.T.” holds an impressive 11-3 record, with six of those victories being held under the ONE Championship banner and featuring highlight reel finishes.
A former SFC Featherweight Champion, Ting is an Auckland MMA product with a strong background in kickboxing, but in recent efforts has showed much improved grappling and submission skills. In fact, he is currently riding a two-fight win streak thanks to his new weapon, the guillotine choke. That, to Lisita, is the root of his arrogance.
“Ev’s win streak is gonna give him cockiness and is gonna make him overconfident,” the Aussie says. “I think he’s gonna see my last couple of fights and think that it’s a walk in the park for him, but I guarantee you it’s going to be the hardest fight of his life. He’s going to get hurt because I’m prepared to do it.
I’M PHYSICALLY PREPARED EVERY TIME. I’M READY TO GO, I MAKE WEIGHT, BUT MY MENTAL SIDE, I WASN’T AT EASE.
“I’m prepared to get hurt. I’m prepared to die in there,” he continues. “I’m proud to be in ONE Championship. It’s the best organization in the world and where I wanna stay for the rest of my career. To do that, I gotta win, so I’ll win at all costs.”
The truth is, Lisita desperately needs a win. The Australian’s career started off hot. A crowd-pleaser, Lisita’s in-your-face style has always made him a threat, as the heavy hitter is constantly on the lookout for the finish. He went on to become the SFC South Pacific Lightweight Champion and became the undisputed master of the Bulldog Choke after submitting ex-DREAM and Shooto star Takeshi Inoue at the end of 2013.
He caught the attention of ONE Championship and, six months later, he made an impactful debut at ONE: RISE OF HEROES when he knocked out Yusuke Kawanago — a man he previously lost to — in 28 seconds.
Lisita was slated to be the next great featherweight hero on the rise, but that hope came crashing down in a hurry. His winning ways were dashed and instead, he experienced an unprecedented string of losses. He was finished by Eric Kelly, current ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat Gafurov, and Timofey Nastyukhin in succession, the most recent of which was a six-second knockout.
That quick knockout, as the Aussie puts it, “kicked some sense into me.” It forced him to sit down, catch his breath and analyze what had been going wrong.
“I’ve always come into the fights physically prepared. I’ve always been ready to fight, but it’s about the mental side, too, and I’ve had things going against me, mentally,” he admits. “As far as the people I’ve been around, the people I’ve been training with, the people I’ve been living with, you know, it affects you a lot.
“They say this game is 90% mental — there is some truth to it. As you know, I’m physically prepared every time. I’m ready to go, I make weight, but my mental side, I wasn’t at ease. I wasn’t happy in my heart, but now I am.”
Lisita left Thailand’s Phuket Top Team and returned back home to New South Wales, where he is surrounded by family, and now trains out of Sydney-based Australian Top Team, one of the continent’s best MMA gyms.
Also, as part of this new and improved version of himself, he changed his nickname from “Warrior Of God” back to his original “Ruthless” moniker.
“Ruthless for life, that’s my name. That’s what I got tattooed right here,” he explains, pointing to his ink. “That’s what I am. I’m ruthless in the cage. I look for the finish. I’m there to kill. I give glory to God, I give thanks to God when it’s all said and done, but it’s all up to me.
“I can’t leave it in God’s hands. It’s in my hands. I’ll take the fight, no matter how bad it is, how bad it’s going for me. I’m going to win — win at all cost. Kill or be killed.”
Though he is currently riding a three-fight losing streak, and will be walking into enemy territory for his main event fight next Saturday Night, Lisita feels refreshed. He has the support of his friends, his family, his new gym brethren and, of course, the entire Australian nation. The Australian mixed martial artist has fixed his mental glitch and now, it’s time to take his career back.
“All these fights, these setbacks, have been a set-up for major comeback,” he wisely says. “It’s going to be the best comeback and the best story in MMA history. Everybody’s going to know about Rob Lisita.
“When it’s all said and done, my story in ONE Championship is going to be told for a very long time and I’m going to be the champion one day. This is the first step to getting there.”