Bellator, Oliver Enkamp: “Karate can survive and thrive within MMA, here’s how”

There’s a young Swede who is doing everything in his power to gain the spotlight among Bellator welterweights. With three first round stoppage wins in his first three Bellator fights, Oliver Enkamp is quickly climbing the rankings with his unhortodox style. Enkamp’s background is in Karate, a relative rarity as there are not many high level MMA fighters with such base – Stephen Wonderboy Thompson and Lyoto Machida being the most prominent.

If the name rang something of a bell for you, you’re not mistaking: Oliver is the brother of Jesse Enkamp, a well known Youtuber who does more than his part to share his and his brother’s experience with Karate.

To say that Enkamp is proud of his background would be an understatement, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t accept criticism regarding how some dojos have done a disservice to the image and perception of Karate. Just like his brother, he never shies away from the tough questions about Karate’s place in today’s martial arts landscape. Enkamp is more than willing to respond to the many who question the future and the utility of the art.

As The Future is looking more and more like The Present, enjoy our talk with this friendly, thoughtful and dangerous young man. We’re sure we will see him on bigger and bigger stages in the near future and we wish him the best in Bellator.

1) We have really seen you dominate since you have signed with Bellator. What has changed, compared to your experience with the UFC? How much do you think you’ve matured during the past few years?

1) From fighting in smaller local shows to getting a UFC contract on a two weeks’ notice was a huge jump up in competition, and something that taught me a lot of valuable lessions when it comes to tactics and confidence. In hindsight I wasn’t mature enough for that level at that particular time. But at the same time I wouldn’t have learned those valuable lessions if it hadn’t been for those two losses in the UFC, which formed me in to the world class fighter that I am today!

2) You are already climbing the rankings in your Bellator weight class. Do you already have your sights set on a title shot? How many wins do you think you need to get there?

2) If I keep performing in the same way I am right now; with three first round finishes, I don’t think a title bout is too far away in the future. However I am not thinking about that since we can only control the present, which is why I only focus on one fight at a time!

3) You are one of the few pure Karate practitioners in world MMA who are able to use this martial art effectively. How much has Karate influenced your personal and professional life?

3) Karate has formed my whole character, discipline and worldview. These traits (respect, humility, responsibility) are so much more important than the techniques I’ve learned from karate – and therefore something I want to spread using my platform, to make a greater impact with my athletic career.

4) What would you respond to those saying that Karate can’t be functional for MMA? Your KOs and your distance management show how it can still be a very effective approach!

4) I say that those people have probably been exposed to a bad sensei or dojo. I think there are just as many bad teachers in karate as there are good ones. And the same goes for MMA gyms. This is why it is important to think critically and be your own best teacher.

5) Some people question the validity of Karate when it comes to self – defense. Given that it is ideal to master multiple styles, do you think Karate can be effective in these scenarios?

5) Karate can be many things. Orginally karate was made for self-defense, but today many dojos do it just for sports or health/fitness, and since the approach to karate differs from dojo to dojo, the purpose and quality of your training really depends on where you go.

6) Why do you think there are less and less young people approaching Karate in Europe? Is there a need for a cultural revolution and more open mindedness towards combat sports by some “old school” masters?

6) I think it is hard to market karate today when the “mysticism” of Eastern martial arts is gone – in favour for the more modern approaches to combat, like MMA.

7) Following up on the previous question, do you think Karate schools can survive competition from Muay Thai, BJJ, MMA and “trendier” martial arts / combat sports? If so, how?

7) With the right approach I think so. You have to point out what makes karate special – and it is not self protection, but self PERFECTION. Karate is just as much an inner journey as an outer one. It is not just what you see on the surface, but the budo-spirit that comes with it. You won’t get this in most modern boxing or MMA gyms which are more sports oriented. I would definitively rather put my kids in a karate class.

8) What are your thoughts on Karate Combat? Do you think it can serve as the right bridge between Karate practitioners and combat sports practitioners?

8) I think Karate Combat is a great concept as it bridges the old with the new! It brings back those old-school vibes combined with modern technology which makes karate cool again! We see everything going in circles, and shows like “Cobra Kai” on Netflix is another proof of this. I think KC is still developing a lot and I could definitively see myself fighting there in the future as well!

Written by Massimiliano Rincione
Fondatore di 29 anni ad agosto, scrivo di MMA dal lontano 2015, ed ho passato 5 anni a curare le sezioni "UFC" e "MMA" di Fox Mi divido tra mixed martial arts e calcio, per cui scrivo collaborando con Tuttomercatoweb. Sono una (pessima) cintura bianca di BJJ, una blu di kickboxing ed un ex amateur pieno contatto di MMA. E sono anche super saccente.

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