In most cases, spending five years removed from any sport would prove detrimental to an athlete achieving success in that arena. But in the case of Mark Holst -- who is returning to muay Thai after five years of solely competing in MMA -- the hope is that his time spent inside the cage will correlate to success in the Lion Fight ring.
After opening his MMA career with a record of 8-1 and earning an opportunity to fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “Boots” lost both of his fights in the Octagon and wound up back on the independent circuit. Now, Holst’s attention turns to Lion Fight 15, where he will face his stiffest opponent yet, former muay Thai champ and Bellator veteran Cosmo Alexandre.
“My end goal was always to make it to the UFC, but once I made it there, things really didn’t go my way, so I had to take a step back,” Holst recently told Sherdog.com. “Now with MMA, I just fight for fun, but I wouldn’t mind going back and forth like Cosmo does. It is nice to fight with different rules.”
Like the Renzo Gracie jiu-jitsu product, Alexandre also makes a living off fighting both as a mixed martial artist and a muay Thai practitioner. With a kickboxing record of 41-14, Alexandre will surely hold the experience edge in addition to entering the ring with a reach advantage -- a type of puzzle which Holst has rarely faced.
“He’ll be only the second opponent I didn’t have a reach advantage over. Cosmo also has a lot more experience in the muay Thai aspect, so it will be a great challenge. It’s good to hone in on one discipline of martial arts,” Holst explained. “To be able to enter a jiu-jitsu tournament, then have a muay Thai fight, then jump back into the cage for MMA keeps it fun. Cris ‘Cyborg’ is a perfect example of this. Even though she may have suffered a loss in Lion Fight, it’s going to make her that much better when she finally does have another MMA bout.”
Holst prides himself in remaining well-versed in all aspects of combat sports, and he has noticed the size differential between boxing and MMA gloves can make defense easier in a sport based solely on striking.
“I always spar with the 16-ounce gloves. That way, when I fight with MMA gloves, or the 12-ounce mitts we use in Lion Fight, I am able to pack a stronger punch,” Holst said. “I love the fact that the muay Thai gloves make it easier to cover up during the fight, too. It’s very helpful.”
Although the 28-year old’s career plans remain up in the air, he hopes to do more business with the United States’ largest muay Thai organization, provided things go as planned during his match this Friday at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn.
“This is a single-fight contract for me, so hopefully I perform well enough to where they are interested in having me back,” Holst said. “It all depends on how much fun I have. My last MMA fight, I really didn’t have much fun. I lost to this guy I should have beat, so I took it really hard. The real goal now is to hover between both sports and be successful in doing so.”