“Every fight is do or die.” An Interview with Rob Lisita

“Ruthless” Rob Lisita (14-5-0) is the featherweight every ONE FC fan is paying attention to (or should be paying attention to). Only two months ago at Rise of Heroes, the thirty-one-year-old, Campbelltown native etched his name in the minds of fans when he punched his way through Yusuke Kawanago in less than thirty seconds. The victory not only earned Lisita some much-needed revenge, but no doubt caught the attention of ONE FC CEO, Victor Cui, who called Lisita and his War of Dragons opponent, Eric Kelly, “two of the best featherweights in the world.”

Fight of the Night caught up with Rob to talk about his upcoming bout at War of Dragons, as well as what drives him and what advice he would give to anyone planning on following in his footsteps. The following interview was conducted through Facebook IM chat. Out of respect for Mr. Lisita’s rigorous training schedule, the interview was intentionally kept short.

 Fight of the Night: What made you want to become a professional fighter? Was there any particular moment in your life where you said to yourself, “Fighting is what I want to do for a living”? If so, please tell us about it.

Rob Lisita: Games like “Street Fighter 2” and movies like “Bloodsport” made me wish I could do something like that. When I was fifteen, I got a UFC VHS and I loved it. There were no lightweights and I’ve always known I wouldn’t be a heavyweight, but then I found a Pride FC VHS and saw [Kazushi] Sakuraba. He was small taking on big dudes and was awesome. It made me believe I could do it. Eventually, after my rugby league career when I was twenty-five, I found a bjj gym and started.

FotN: What motivates you to get into the cage and put your body on the line for the entertainment of hundreds or even thousands of fans? Is it the money, the fame, the love of the sport, or something else? All of the above, perhaps?

RL: Is it about the money? Absolutely. Is it about the fame? Absolutely. It’s everything wrapped in one. I wanna be the best. Not just the best featherweight fighter. I wanna be the best fighter period.

FotN: When it is fight night, and you’re approaching the cage with your entrance music playing over the screams of thousands of fans calling for you and your opponent to clobber each other, what are you usually thinking about? How are you usually feeling? Are you usually nervous, excited, or do you feeling something else?

RL: I feel all of those feelings, but all I know is I’m gonna go fight this dude and I’m gonna give him my best.

FotN: Victor Cui said the winner of your fight “will set himself up to challenge [ONE FC featherweight champion] Koji Oishi.” With a potential shot at the championship hanging over your head, do you feel there is more pressure to win this fight than there was in your previous fight? If so, has this pressure affected your training in any positive or negative ways?

RL: I couldn’t want to win any more no matter the situation. Every fight is do or die. I train hard for every opponent. I will just do my best and God will take care of the rest. That’s why I fight: to be the best. To be the champion is the greatest honour a man can have.

FotN: In an interview with Inside MMA, you said, “My goal is to prove for a period in history that I was the best Australian fighter in my weight. People always talk about being one in a million. I want people to remember me as the absolute best. I want to be one in 25 million.” What do you think a fighter has to accomplish before he or she can be considered “the absolute best” and “one in 25 million”? What fighters (either in MMA or another combat sport) do you think can be considered “the absolute best”?

RL: Right now, I am proving without a doubt that I’m the best 66kg fighter in Australia. My next goal is to prove I’m the best in Asia.

FotN: You also said in your Inside MMA interview that you may only have two to five years left of fighting. So, let’s say it’s seven years in the future. You’re done fighting, and I’m a twenty-year-old who wants to pursue a career in mixed martial arts. What advice would you give me?

RL: I’d say don’t do it because you want money or fame. Do it because you love to fight. And if you do go for it, you’ve gotta put in overtime if you wanna be the best in your field.

Fight of the Night would like to thank Mr. Lisita for his time.  Be sure to catch him in action on July 11 when he and Eric Kelly headline ONE FC’s War of Dragons from the National Taiwan University Sports Center in Taipei, Taiwan.

Chris Zahar is an American-born journalist. He has been covering Asian MMA since 2013, and his work has been featured in both Fight of the Night and Yahoo Sports. He has also interviewed such top Asian, ONE FC stars as Rob Lisita, Paul Cheng, and Sam "Sung Ming Yen." Chris also has the honor of training at TOUGH MMA, the only Taiwanese fight team to have exclusive partnership with ONE Fighting Championship. In his spare time, Chris not only enjoys mixed martial arts, but studies politics, philosophy, and Chinese. He is also happily married and a proud father to his son. Chris resides in Taiwan.