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Martial arts gave Brad Robinson a new lease of life

A weighty wake-up call shocked this once obese man into becoming a mixed martial arts fighter.

Seven years ago, Brad Robinson, then managing director of CCTV and security firm Empire Automation, was nearly barred from the operating theatre to witness his first child’s birth. The hospital couldn’t find scrubs to fit a man weighing 150kg at waist size 54, and he had to negotiate his way in.

That sparked his fitness journey which transformed him into a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, a sport where competitors can spar in any martial art. What started off as gym workouts led to various combat sports like boxing, muay thai and jujitsu, as he sought to improve his cardiovascular endurance.

While he reached his fitness goal and weighs 87kg today, he didn’t stop there. His first boxing match in 2010 awakened the sleeping beast and fuelled his determination to go further and compete professionally. “I knocked the guy out, got my hand raised in victory, and that was it,” says Robinson. “That lit the fire.”

That fire pushed him to compete in One Fighting Championship (One FC), Asia’s largest professional MMA tournament, today known as One Championship. It also led him to quit his job in 2012 to open Ritual Gym, a space offering 30-minute workouts. He practises the various martial arts every day in preparation for the next One FC tournament, later this month.

The 35-year-old American attributes his drive to an inborn competitive streak. He grew up in Oklahoma wrestling and playing American football.

“My competitive streak got transferred 100 per cent to the corporate world,” he explains. Tasked with international expansion, Empire Automation grew from a small outfit of five to a formidable presence across the Asia-Pacific, handling large projects like airports and casinos.

He remains a board member of his former company but is looking to replicate that success with his gym. The goal? To open 100 outlets across the world in three years. Already, he has opened a branch in business-networking website Linkedin’s Singapore office.

What advice does he have for other CEOs on keeping fit? “You have only one body,” he says. “Move around more. Take the stairs or go for a walk, instead of watching TV. Something is better than nothing.”