Maple Ridge’s Oliver Vajda grew up idolizing martial arts stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li.
Now, the 19-year-old mixed martial artist is on his own road to martial arts stardom, as he defends his Westcoast MMA Bantamweight Title at Coquitlam’s Red Robinson Theatre on September 10.
Vajda, a graduate from Thomas Haney Secondary School, started training at Carlson Gracie MMA in Maple Ridge just three years ago.
“My dad was a boxer, so it was kind of natural for me to get into it,” he says.
While Vajda played soccer growing up, he says he became increasingly frustrated that he couldn’t use his whole body in the game.
He says he knew right away MMA was the sport for him.
“It’s not like other sports,” he says. “The mental aspect, all the preparation, it’s so far beyond every other sport I’ve played.”
Vajda has compiled a perfect 5-0 record as an amateur fighter so far. His first fight was a year and a half ago
“I told my coach I was ready to fight and he calls me up and says I have fight in two days,” says Vajda. “I had to cut 10 pounds, so I was so concentrated on losing weight, that it took my mind off the fight.”
Vajda won the fight in the second round with a knock-out. The crowd roared, and he was hooked.
“I can’t compare the feeling to anything else,” he says. “Knowing that all that time and effort paid off, all the cheering from the crowd, it was just amazing.”
Vajda has continued to stack up the wins in the last year and a half, beating a number of more experienced fighters on the way.
During that time he says he’s seen the sport of mixed martial arts bloom in the Lower Mainland.
“The sport is really taking off,” he says. “I’m seeing a lot more competitors, there’s a lot more skill.”
Vajda says his role models in the MMA world are Canadian Georges St. Pierre – for his humility as a champion – and Anderson Silva – for his ability to just about anything he wants in the ring.
Much like Silva, Vajda says he wants to become a well-rounded fighter, without weaknesses.
“I like to think I’m a good all-round fighter,” he says. “I’m still growing, and I’m still learning.”
At just 19, he has a long way to go before he joins Silva’s ranks, but the next step will at the Red Robinson Theatre in Coquitlam Sept. 10 as he defends his bantamweight title against Jordan Manning.
Vajda is confident on the prospect of going 6-0.
“I’m going to focus on my technical striking,” he says. “[Manning] is a good fighter, but I’ll win if he goes the distance.”