Vietnam-based Frenchman Arnaud Lepont is ready to return to the ONE Championship cage after two years away.
“The Game” makes his comeback on Friday, 24 November, against Filipino Richard ‘Notorious’ Corminal, in a lightweight battle between striker and submission artist at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT in Singapore.
Despite his lengthy absence, Lepont says he’s ready to jump back into action, with only the usual pre-bout nerves to deal with before taking on his opponent.
“My only concern is the pressure of the big event. Being at home in your own cage is different from being in front of the crowd,” said the 37-year-old.
“Managing nerves is part of the game. You can lose the match before you start. It is a mind game, and that is what I working on.”
Lepont’s character gained notoriety for his brash, outspoken approach to the cage, but his last appearance gave him something of an attitude adjustment, as he explained ahead of his ONE Championship return.
“That was a bad experience,” he said of his September 2015 TKO loss to Vincent Latoel.
“I was not even in that match. I was passive. I was watching that match.
“It is OK to talk, but you also need to show valour and respect.”
That loss prompted Lepont to step away from active competition, as he instead concentrated his efforts into the management of one of the biggest martial arts gyms in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
Being around aspiring young competitors on a daily basis meant the competitive bug soon returned, and Lepont turned his attention back to the cage once again.
“Because you are there training, you are learning new skills,” he explained.
“You are getting older, but you learn to compete in a different way.”
As a youngster, Lepont suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and his father enrolled him in a local karate school to help the youngster cope with his condition and teach him discipline.
He soon expanded his martial arts horizons, and years later, eventually found himself competing in loosely regulated martial arts matches in bars across Central Europe.
“Guys were smoking cigarettes and throwing their beer at you if you did not go to the floor, or if you are not putting on a show,” he recalled.
“They only had two sets of gloves and when you were done, you passed them on to the next guy.”
He later quit his lucrative banking job to concentrate on competitive martial arts full-time, found a home in Vietnam, and has been on ONE’s roster for the past five and a half years.
On 24 November, Lepont returns, refreshed, reinvigorated, and armed with a BJJ black belt gained two years ago. His two years away have given him the chance to sharpen his skills and add new weapons to his arsenal. He says he’s ready to put on a show against Corminal.
“Richard is good. He is talented and younger,” Lepont said. “But I cannot be scared of that guy. It is not possible. He should be scared of me. He does not know what I can do. He does not know the new version of me.”
The new Lepont will still bring showmanship to the fore, but this time it will be tempered with the experience and humility of a 37-year-old who knows the ups and downs of a life spent in the cage.
Plus, the whiskey connoisseur says the experience of returning to competition will be akin to enjoying a glass of the finest whiskey.
“It is magical, if someone pours you an expensive whiskey. This stuff has been waiting 15 or 20 years to get here. It is amazing,” he explains.
“[Competing in the cage] is like that. You want to feel that rush one more time.”