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Andrew Leone: Building momentum in Bali

American has swapped Long Island for Bali, and is loving life

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ONE Championship

Andrew Leone’s story is a pretty inspiring one as he made the decision to leave behind his life in Long Island, New York to chase his dream of living and training in the idyllic setting of Bali.

Along with his brother Anthony, Leone has held a passion for wrestling and surfing for many years, but in the early days neither discipline was available to them, so they both took up karate, as first Anthony, then Andrew, hit the mats as they made the first tentative steps in their respective martial arts journeys.

“Me and brother got into this together in 2005, and we started training at first at a karate school,” Leone told ONE Championship.

“That was the only thing in our town that was outside of wrestling, and I remember going to wrestling practice, and my coach would laugh at me because I would leave 10 minutes early to go to karate practice.

“That was when we were 14, or 15 years old. Then Anthony got a car, so slowly we started driving to other places. Anthony has been a big inspiration since the beginning, just pushing me to that level.”

History repeated itself when Anthony embarked on his martial arts career inside the cage. He started first, but younger brother Andrew wasn’t far behind.

But at that point the brothers chose to go in different directions. Anthony lived and trained in the United States, but Andrew decided to broaden his martial arts horizons and jetted off to Asia. First he set up in Thailand, then moved to Singapore. Eventually in 2013 he returned to Thailand to be a part of Phuket Top team as their wrestling coach.

The brothers reunited in Thailand and helped Steve Suryadinata launch a new and improved BJJ programme at Jakarta Muay Thai and MMA.

That led to the opportunity of a lifetime, as the trio joined coach Don Carlo-Clauss to buy and launch the gym of their dreams – Bali MMA.

Carlo-Clauss has been a particular inspiration to Leone, having competed himself and transitioned successfully into the coaching realm.

“Donnie, our head coach, is somebody I looked up to when I was younger,” Leone explained.

“He was a two-time New York state wrestling champion. Undefeated in his senior year [of high school], the fourth-ranked recruit into the University of Virginia, and a two-time national qualifier. That is the kind of guy that is in the room every day giving directions, and telling us what we have to do.”

The collective added a host of world-class coaches to their lineup as Bali MMA quickly established itself as one of the top gyms in Asia.

And with a team packed with rising martial arts stars, the future looks bright for Leone and his growing team.

“I am constantly inspired by my teammates – the Subba brothers, [Muhammad] Aiman, my wife, coach Mike – I am constantly inspired. That inspiration keeps going,” he said..

“We are pretty lucky to have the people we have on our mats everyday, and I am not even naming a quarter of them. I could get real emotional, and get crazy right now. There have been chapters of inspiration.”

Leone will hope his situation has him perfectly prepared for his latest test, as he gets set to face Filipino star Kevin Belingon in Manila at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR on 20 April.

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK national media. News Editor: ONE Championship. UFC/MMA Reporter: BBC Three. International MMA Reporter: The Fight Nation. Contributor: MMAjunkie.

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