Muay Thai is an incredible sport. The cognoscenti of knowledge in the country of Thailand is mind astounding. With so much talent being created on such a small island, it’s hard to find foreigners with similar success as native Thai’s. While not impossible, Thailand breeds Thai boxers. Ognjen Topic is one of those foreigners who has had the success mentioned. Topic is a three time Muay Thai World Champion. He’s won titles and fought all over the world. Topic has fought some of the best as well, including Saenchai, Saemapetch, and many, many more.
Topic longed to be a fighter, even at a young age. He was captivated by boxing. But, his parents didn’t allow him to pursue a hobby that would see him punched in the head. The Topic family came from Serbia, a war torn country, to America to give Ognjen a better life. But, Topic found his way to martial arts regardless.
“I started when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I started watching a lot of boxing; the ESPN Friday Night Fights. I wanted to be a boxer so I asked my parents if I can box and they said absolutely not. We came from a war torn country and they brought me to America to make something of myself, to go to school and do something better than be a fighter. They said no, you can’t be a fighter. So I said, ‘Okay, if I can’t do boxing, let me do karate or something.’ I knew I wasn’t going to like karate because it wasn’t realistic. I already knew that. I know boxing is a real fight. I did taekwondo and I did that for four years and got my black belt. Throughout that whole time I wasn’t happy with it. It was the best thing I could have at the time. I knew it wasn’t realistic and I knew it wasn’t the real thing.”
His unhappiness in taekwondo kept Ognjen Topic searching. It didn’t take much longer for him to discover Muay Thai. Topic vividly remembers the way the Thai boxers looked in the ring and he was instantly drawn to just that.
“One day, again, I’m watching ESPN. This is four years later. Now I’m 18 years old. I started at 14 in taekwondo. On ESPN, I saw Muay Thai the first time. Before then, I knew kickboxing and would watching kickboxing with my father. We both liked kickboxing, they just didn’t let me do it. But, when I first saw Muay Thai it was like a completely different sport to me. The fighters didn’t move the same way, they weren’t bouncy and jumpy all over the place like they were in boxing. They looked so calm and confident in what they were doing. Right away, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Shortly after, Topic found his gym and he began his training. “I was driving around town once and I was maybe 15 or 20 minutes away from my house. I see a big banner and it shows a Muay Thai fighter. I saw ‘Muay Thai’ and knew it was the stuff that I saw on TV. I went inside and asked if I could join and they said, ‘Aw man, these guys just moved out about a month ago.’ I went online, that’s when we first started having internet, and I searched their name, and I found them, which is North Jersey Muay Thai and I’ve been with them since I was 18 years old.”
Outside of Muay Thai, Topic says he enjoys a very low key life. He went to school for graphic design as well and runs a business around that. Being in Bangkok, he gets to enjoy himself, however.
“I am a graphic designer, I went to school for that in college, and I had a career as that before I put all my focus in fighting. I do graphic design, specifically logo design and branding. Outside of that, I don’t do much. I like to spend time by myself when I am alone, especially in a country where you don’t have many people.”
Ognjen Topic and Muay Thai
At 35, Topic has accomplished plenty. But, for Ognjen Topic, it isn’t the belts that he is most proud of. It is his overcoming personal stuff in the ring, the sickness and injuries, that he is most proud of.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the titles. The only time I was happy about a title was the WBC amateur title for America. The only reason I was happy about that is because my coaches were extremely happy. That was one of their goals and I was happy to help them get to that goal. But for me, the titles, of course yes, I was happy about that too. For me, it’s all about the difficulty that I have to go through. I did have two fights that were title fights that were extremely difficult to get through because of the situations I had to go through. Then there was another fight I had here in Thailand where I had injuries and things like that. It’s always something to do with overcoming difficulties, especially talking about being injured or being sick. Now you have to go in there and not only come out the victor but you have to literally protect your life because you never know what could happen there.”
Earlier in the year, the IOC announced full recognition of kickboxing, sambo, and Muay Thai. This sparked much interest in the combat sports community. Could Muay Thai become part of the Olympic Games? When asked about Thai boxing in The Games, Topic was both optimistic and realistic.
When asked about Muay Thai in the Olympics, Ognjen Topic said, “I think so. Boxing is there so I don’t see why Muay Thai can’t be there as well. Yeah, I think it would be good for the sport, but I don’t think it’s going to make Muay Thai mainstream. I think it’s going to stay exactly where it’s at. That’s just the nature of our sport.”
While he doesn’t have a fight scheduled right now, Topic is hoping to get back in the ring sooner rather than later. At this point in his career, he feels like it’s all coming together after years of work and progress. Unfortunately, the pandemic has that locked down for Ognjen Topic and his team. Until then, he will continue to work and get better.
“We’ve been locked down here going into our third month. It’s been extremely difficult to deal with. I’m 35 years old and I have so much more experience and I feel great mentally and I feel good physically outside of the injuries that I’ve been dealing with for a while. I feel like I’m knocking at the door of becoming something more like a Lumpinee champion. But that door is a steel door and that door represents the situation that we’re in now in the world. I can’t break through that door. Unfortunately I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just hope that things go back to the way they were by next year and I can continue on striving on for my goals.”
The pandemic will eventually lift up and Ognjen Topic will undoubtedly get back to doing what he does best: fight. He will continue to strive for his goals and with the hard work put in, he can get there.
Listen to the interview with Ognjen Topic on your favorite podcast app!