Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad is more than just passionate about martial arts – the 30-year-old flyweight loves the lifestyle and the thrill of competing inside the cage. But when he was a child, he lacked discipline, was fairly unmotivated, and often misdirected his anger. Quite simply, he preferred walking on the dark side of life.

Though he was born in Northeast Thailand and raised by his grandfather, he spent his formative years in Belgium. By the time he was a teenager, he had started getting into trouble.

“I was such a bad kid,” Bunrad admits. “I was drinking, smoking, and even getting into fights. I was constantly pushing the boundaries.”

It is not surprising that “Mak” took this path, having moved to Brussels as an immigrant after his mother remarried a Belgian man, with his own father nowhere to be seen. A trip halfway around the world to a completely unfamiliar host nation is a shocking one for such a young mind to comprehend. Those kinds of upsets at a young age can have a huge impact.

“I did not have any respect for myself and what my mother did for me,” the Thai combatant reveals. Instead of concentrating on his studies, he spent his time on the streets and getting into trouble. But luckily, he came across something that would change his life for the better.

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After seeing Muay Thai legend Buakaw Banchamek compete nine years ago, Bunrad found inspiration and purpose. He sought out schooling in the art of combat to try and emulate his hero, and has not looked back ever since.

“This sport and the martial arts lifestyle brings balance in my life, and helps me to follow a straight line,” he revealed. “That is the main inspiration and reason why I am so passionate.”

Now, after spending the past year and a half healing some injuries, “Mak” is scheduled to make his long-awaited return to the cage.

As the Phuket Top Team product prepares for a rematch against Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio — a man he narrowly defeated two years ago — at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES on Friday, 26 May, in Singapore, he knows that martial arts has enriched his life in so many ways already, regardless of wins or losses in the cage.

“Martial arts has taught me a lot about discipline, rigor, and self-respect, as well as respect for others,“ he observes, thinking back on his troubled days as a teen. “It truly is a school of life. It is like a second father who teaches you.”