‘The Dutch Knight’ Rises

In the middle of an explosion of fireworks, Reinier ‘The Dutch Knight’ de Ridder stands tall, fist raised, prepared to defend his ONE Championship Middleweight title for the very first time. Set to compete in his third straight main-event, the Breda-born champion begins the walk towards the cage he has so often dominated opponents in. 

His moniker derives from his last name, meaning knight in Dutch, with his attire showcasing the credentials of an accomplished fighter, a mixed martial arts (MMA) knight if you will. Donning a traditional gi tightly secured by a black belt with a red stripe much like the most skilled Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners, de Ridder’s grappling credentials cannot be questioned. If that wasn’t enough, the gold belt wrapped around his arm certifies his status as one of the best fighters on the planet. 

Roy Jones Jrs’ “Can’t be touched” is blasting through the speakers in Singapore’s Indoor Stadium, complimenting the look of sheer determination on the face of the champion.  As he enters the cage, this steely focus never wavers. Dominic Lau announces both fighters, de Ridder seemingly in his own world, ready to compete in his 15th professional fight. His opponent for this fight is ONE’s Welterweight champion Kiamrian Abbasov, another fighter hoping to reach the heights of de Ridder’s career. The legendary status of double champion. 

As the two are brought to the center of the cage for final instructions, they touch gloves and head back to their corners. 

Photo Credits: ONE Championship


Sitting in his own home in Breda, the man that speaks from his living room does not seem to be the same one we all watch at home. In this setting, he is not an undefeated, two-division champion with an astonishing 13 finishes in his 15 fights. He is not the man who walks down towards the cage with the desire to go straight through his opponent. Here, he is a husband, a father and a friend, all the people close to him celebrating his triumphant return from Singapore in the background as we talk. 

Reinier de Ridder had a similar upbringing to many of us. From a young age, his parents wanted him to do some form of sport and signed him up for judo. He could have stopped like many of us do. There was no lineage of judo fighters in his family, no strong connection to the sport. Yet de Ridder would make judo his full-time hobby, his competitive hunger satisfied by spending days upon days inside the gym. 

“I’ve always been competitive so I never really quit (judo) until I was 15-16,” he says. “I did judo almost every day.” 

Despite his competitive nature that pushed him to strive, de Ridder was once a teenager, ready to experience life and enjoy what the common 16 year-old does. Unfortunately, that meant that his first passion had to be sacrificed, the rigorous training schedule no longer motivating the future champion. 

“I found out about girls, a few years of partying when I was 17-18, then I moved to Breda for studies.” 


Round 1 comes to a close. If it weren’t for his deep breathing and the blood from his opponent smeared across his shoulders and chest, de Ridder would not look like a man who just fought for five minutes against elite competition. Abbasov cannot say the same. 

A grueling round for the Kyrgyz has left him a bloody mess, a deep cut over his right eye caused by a vicious knee from de Ridder, sealed over with vaseline. All it took was a mere ten seconds for ‘The Dutch Knight’ to take his opponent to the ground and begin his onslaught of punches, elbows, knees and submission attempts. He didn’t lose a second. 

His corner, much like the champion, is full of confidence heading into the second round of this five round fight. Everyone clears the cage and the fighters are ready to go once again. 


By the time de Ridder was 19, he decided it was time to go back to training. It had been a huge part of his life and his competitive urge had to be satisfied once again, this time through the form of Brazilian jiu jitsu. However, adding another combat sport to his arsenal was proving more difficult than initially expected. 

“I went to a gym and there were a lot of beginners, white belts, blue belts,” he tells me. “The coach was a blue belt. I went with all my judo skills and I could destroy all of them, choke them all out. The coach didn’t want to train with me because he was scared, I guess,” he says with a small grin on his face.

Whilst many would be content on being the alpha dog in a gym, de Ridder’s competitive nature prevented him from enjoying a sport that would be crucial to the success he is enjoying now. 

“I was like, this sport is bullshit, it doesn’t work.” 

After a quick dip into rugby, and realizing that the cold Dutch outdoors were not for him, he decided to go back to a different jiu jitsu gym, one that would push him to the next level and feed his appetite for competitiveness. 

“I was training with small guys and I couldn’t handle those guys, guys that weren’t that far ahead of me, they were blue belts but I couldn’t get to them and sometimes they’d even choke me out,” he laughs. “Like what the fuck? I need to learn this stuff.”

His drive was back after a small hiatus and slowly but surely, ‘The Dutch Knight’ would begin his ascend into a full-time career in combat sports, a career that would see him reach the heights that many dream, but often fail, to achieve. 

As steady as his progression in martial arts came, he wasn’t entirely sure if fighting was his calling. He had completed his degree in physiotherapy and enjoyed the peace it brought him. In fact, it is something he still enjoys today in his free time. However, all those hours of training were now being put into competitions, with de Ridder looking to become the next great Dutch fighter in a lineage of champions. 

The first step into high level competitions came in the form of jiu jitsu tournaments, including the prestigious Abu Dhabi World Pro, where he would achieve a gold medal in the 94kg blue belt category. A multitude of local and European competitions followed, where de Ridder would continue to showcase an advanced level of jiu jitsu, claiming three silver medals in the process. 

Whilst success was coming, his initial reaction that this was a ‘bullshit sport’ was still in his mind. 

“The last two (silver medals) were Brazilians who ran away from me in the finals. I was so frustrated with jiu jitsu.” 

This anger led him to switch professions, heading into MMA to continue his development as a fighter. Little did anyone know that this switch would be the start of an ongoing undefeated career.

de Ridder vs Abbasov at ONE: Full Circle
Photo Credits: ONE Championship


This fight is as good as over after two rounds. Another dominant five minutes from the Dutch champion, one where he again implemented his game-plan to perfection. A quick takedown was followed by a barrage of punches from top position, leaving Abbasov struggling  to find any sort of offense. Victory is seemingly further and further away from his grasp with each second the fight continues. 

Abbasov is barely recognizable in his corner, his face now a collage of the work that de Ridder has been executing nonstop since the start of the fight. Any hope the Welterweight champion had was scuffed out by the end of the round, when ‘The Dutch Knight’ made him submit to a side-choke. Unfortunately for Abbasov, his decision to forfeit came after the bell had sounded, allowing him an extra minute to recover before he was mercilessly forced back into a third round. 

De Ridder thinks that the fight should’ve been stopped after that round. Whilst he is an MMA champion, he does not wish to cause unnecessary damage to his opponent, an opponent that understands the gruesome nature of being an professional fighter. 

Despite de Ridder’s compassion, a fighter cannot stop fighting until the final bell. Coaches and cutmen clear the cage once again, and the third round is underway. 


His love for jiu jitsu was not enough to overcome the frustration he was feeling from tournaments and de Ridder eventually switched the mat for the cage, opting to begin competing in MMA. Armed with two martial arts at a high level, perhaps his trajectory could have been predicted. What no one saw coming, however,  was the level of superiority he displayed as a relative newcomer to the sport. 

De Ridder would start his career in the regional scenes of Europe and amass an impressive record. 9 and 0 with all victories coming via finish would prove that he was an exciting prospect that always looked to put on a show. Along his tour of destruction throughout Europe, he would pick up the 360 Middleweight title and the HIT Middleweight title, truly looking like an exciting prospect to all of the world’s top MMA promotions.  Interest was plentiful but for de Ridder, his decision to join ONE was evident. 

“I liked ONE because of the message they relay. They focus a lot on honor and the values of martial arts. That’s what drew me there.” 

ONE’s decision to take a chance on the fighter from Breda was quickly repaid. In his debut fight at welterweight, de Ridder proved he belonged with the best, finishing China’s Fan Rong a minute 15 into the first round with a brutal choke. His debut was rewarded with a Submission of the Night bonus. His next fight would see him move up to his preferred middleweight division, finishing Brazilian Gilberto Galvao by knockout in the second round, extending his streak to 11 consecutive stoppages to begin his MMA career. 

Now in a top promotion, and proving he belonged there, it was only a matter of time before the title shot would come calling. Before he was set to face off against one of the biggest stars in MMA with ‘The Burmese Python’ Aung La Nsang, a two-division champion himself, de Ridder would have one more test before he could find himself fighting for a world title.

In what he would call the most grueling match of his career, de Ridder earned a unanimous decision victory over Leandro Ataides, the first fight in his career to ever go the distance. It was named Fight of the Night, both athletes pushing each other to their very best for 15 minutes of graceful violence. Whilst de Ridder had shown more than enough to warrant a title shot, he would have to wait before that opportunity came. 

“(ONE) told me, ‘You want to be back in six weeks to fight the champion?’ I cannot sell short like that and be there sub-optimally”

So de Ridder waited to be back in full shape as Aung La Nsang would knock out Yokohama-born Ken Hasewaga to retain his title. The collision course was set for ONE Championship: Inside the Matrix, a year and a half after de Ridder’s impressive promotional debut against Fan Rong. 

In what was to that point the biggest challenge of his career in terms of both opportunity and opponent, de Ridder simply continued to do what he had done throughout his career: Dominate whoever was standing in front of him. 

“When the call came later, I was ready to fight (Aung).” He says, earning his first world title in emphatic fashion. A rear naked choke three minutes into the first round was all it took. 

Now an MMA champion at a top promotion, de Ridder wouldn’t allow any other opportunity to pass him by. His first defense of his Middleweight crown was set up with Welterweight champion Kiamrian Abbasov, a man on a quest for a second title. ‘The Dutch Knight’ was prepared to make his claim as ONE’s best pound for pound fighter but the match-up was canceled, Abbasov pulling out two weeks prior to the event. Without an opponent, de Ridder stayed ready in case any other chance arose. Perhaps the biggest one in his career came knocking a week later. 

“One week out (to ONE on TNT 4), they called me to fight Aung for the Light Heavyweight title. It was a chance I couldn’t refuse.” 

Suddenly, de Ridder went from the Middleweight king to possible two-division champion. His opponent was the same as it was seven months prior, a former two-division champion whose legacy had taken a hit due to de Ridder’s successful mauling. Whilst not nearly as quick as their first fight, de Ridder would go the distance for only the second time in his career and win a convincing unanimous decision along with the Light Heavyweight title. 

Confetti fills the arena as de Ridder stands tall, one belt over each shoulder, the image of a dominant double champion and an icon cemented in his legacy. 

Photo Credits: ONE Championship


After an initial tussle for position on the feet, de Ridder is able to secure a takedown, catching Abbasov’s leg to throw him onto the ground. After mounting his opponent, in what seems with the utmost calmness, de Ridder shifts to the side and clamps on the side-choke once again. Abbasov does not have the safety of the bell this round and he quickly taps, ending the bloodshed he endured for 11 minutes. 

‘Too easy. Too, too easy,” exclaims commentator Michael Schiaviallo, in awe at the pure supremacy showcased by ONE’s only current two-division champion. Such a performance is made even more impressive knowing that this is how de Ridder had planned it.

“In the last fight with Aung, I got the side-choke in the second round. I just messed it up, I knew I had it. That’d been eating at me for the last couple of months. So it had to be in this one.” He says. “I got it twice in this fight.”

Referee Oliver Coste raises his hand as his belts are handed back to him. His post-fight interview consisted of him calling anybody and anyone out, teasing heavyweights, jiu jitsu legends and others to try and test themselves against the undefeated ‘Dutch Knight.’

As the show closes, de Ridder is being rained down upon by gold confetti. An image all fans are all too familiar with nowadays, leaving us all to wonder when, and if, anyone will prove to be a worthy challenge.

de Ridder makes Abbasov tap to retain
Photo Credits: ONE Championship

With a successful first title defense of his Middleweight crown, de Ridder is showing that he not only belongs at the top of the MMA summit but he is there to stay and lay claim to be one of the best fighters in the world. 

The next step in cementing his legacy came from one of the many callouts he made after his fight in the shape of legendary jiu jitsu fighter Andre Galvao. The Brazilian is scheduled to meet de Ridder at ONE’s 10th anniversary show ONE: X on the 26th of March in a grappling-only contest—An opportunity that ‘The Dutch Knight’ cannot wait to get to. 

“This is the biggest (fight) for me so far in my career.  I’ve grown up watching Andre during my first few steps into (jiu jitsu). He was on top.” 

Despite the Brazilian’s iconic status as one of the best to ever step on the mat, de Ridder’s competitive nature has him ready for any opponent in any situation. 

“It’s just amazing to be able to face him and have the confidence that I can finish a guy like that. And I’m at that level,” he says. “It’s just cool to be me in this situation.” 

Yet despite the world titles, the high profile fights, the performance bonuses and his desire to be the best, at the end of the day, de Ridder’s motivation for fighting comes from the home he is sitting in now, the home that always welcomes him regardless of what he is outside of it. 

“The most important thing to me is the people around me. My kids are proud, my wife is proud. That’s the most important thing in my life. When the kids grow up, they’ll know what I did. How I’ve handled myself, how it hopefully inspired people around me to do good stuff.” 

‘The Dutch Knight’ can rest assured that his impressive career, one that appears to have just begun, will leave an indelible mark on many people. 

“I’m proud to be one of those guys that I always looked up to.”

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