Vincent Latoel takes satisfaction in providing entertainment to the masses, but inside of him burns the desire to win. He is driven by it.
The warrior nicknamed “Magnivincent” will attempt to fulfill that desire when he battles Vaughn “The Spawn” Donayre at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER, which broadcasts live on Saturday Night, 14 January, from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
With both fighters having a reputation for pushing the action, this lightweight showdown has the potential to be the fight of the night. Regardless, Latoel wants to leave the cage with a victory.
“I really want to win. I am going to win,” the 37-year-old states. “I have trained harder than ever. I have watched footage to fix holes in my game and find holes in his.”
Although Latoel is putting in the work, the truth is he may have trained for mixed martial arts competition much longer than anybody on the ONE Championship roster.
Way before the MMA boom swept over the combat sports world in the mid-2000s, things were not always as polished as the athletes and promotions that are seen today. There was not a universal ‘mixed martial arts’ package with pristine gyms that offered every discipline under one roof, let alone MMA classes in the days of ‘no holds barred’ and ‘free fighting.’ The sport was still very much niche.
Latoel started out in these earlier, much simpler days. With more than 15 years of MMA competition to his name, he still remembers how his quest began.
"I had done some taekwondo at around 12-years-old, but I went back to playing soccer as a teenager and did not get back in martial arts until I was 20,” he explains. “I saw some of it in Holland — I had seen kickboxing as obviously it is big here — but I discovered ground fighting, BJJ, and got into training.”
Without the lifetime of martial arts experience that some other combatants bring to the cage, it would have been understandable if the Dutch lightweight had taken his time before competing in his first match. But only a year in, he was already booked and raring to go.
“I had done some grappling tournaments, and then went straight into some MMA fights. I did well. I fought a lot of amateur fights,” he says. “Back then it was different. People were kickboxers, or from judo or BJJ. Now everybody is good at stand-up fighting, wrestling, and ground fighting. I always wanted to do them all.”
Aside from the brief stint in taekwondo, Magnivicent’s clean slate was a positive. It gave him an open, analytical mind when it came to accepting all styles, and wanting to be well-rounded instead of dogmatically approaching fighting with tunnel vision.
There are still MMA fighters from specific backgrounds who appear not to have the same interest in developing across the spectrum of combat, even though they have been around just as long. But the most cerebral guys flourishing around the turn of the millennium knew that being versatile was the key.
As almost any athlete will tell you, getting the chance to test their training and its effectiveness is almost a primal necessity. It allows an outlet for the technical aspects of improvement, but Latoel also felt that it expressed so much more.
“Competing was my drive to train,” he divulged. “It is an expression of emotion and energy. I love it.”
However, it is an intense and all encompassing sport to take part in, and that led to the 37-year-old’s hiatus from competition in 2009. Eight years is plenty in the fight game, especially when you have faced a who’s who of Europe’s top fighters in that era.
Turbulent life outside of the sport meant Latoel’s path had stopped abruptly. Even he was not sure whether it would be the end, but it eventually led him down a new road.
“I had personal issues, and sometimes you need to take focus off one thing and move it to another. I did not have a good balance. I needed time to sort the balance out,” he admits. "But I had a dream. When I took the break, I said to myself I would only come back if it was for a big organization that would offer me opportunities in different countries.”
After four years on the sidelines, the lightweight’s self-imposed hiatus was interrupted when he was approached by ONE Championship. Not only were they the fastest-growing organization in the world and Asia’s frontrunner, but they were also presenting opportunities that got him excited once again.
Being ethnically Indonesian Moluccan, Latoel was offered the chance to fight at ONE: CHAMPIONS AND WARRIORS in Jakarta, and it was an opportunity he could not pass up. Both his parents were from Indonesia, and had moved to the Netherlands before he was born.
However, despite 47 months away from the sport, he did not miss a beat, submitting Willy Ni via guillotine in under two minutes. The Dutch fighter had not only been reunited with his cultural home, he connected with a new army of fans.
"That was big for me,” he says. “I have lots of family [in Jakarta], and now lots of fans who come to watch me. I get more support there than in Holland. I think the people get more excited about the ONE shows than fans here who have kickboxing shows every weekend.”
Magnivicent is conscious to not just value Indonesian fans, but ONE fans in general. As with any fighter, he is literally putting his body on the line for their entertainment. More so than some others, he sees this as his duty, and that is why he can always be relied upon to be one half of exciting battles. The fans respond with true admiration.
“When I am fighting, I come to fight. Whether I win or lose, it is all action. I think the Asian people like that mentality of fighting. They cheer when you win, but they also cheer when you lose. They respect that,” he explains.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but the fans get what they want to see. MMA is an entertainment business. People come to see the knockouts and good fights.”
That mentality, though crowd-pleasing, has given him mixed results. He currently sports a 16-18-2 record and, as he heads towards his next showdown on 14 January against Vaughan Donayre, a two-fight skid weighs heavily on his mind.
For Latoel, a Golden Glory veteran who now trains out of the Deventer-Based Tatsujin Dojo, that only further motivates him to get the win. If he can entertain the fans in the process, it is a bonus.