Mick Siebert: Territory Tough

International Kickboxer Magazine, Vol.18, No.3

Mick Siebert, the man who put Muay Thai on the map in Darwin, talks with JARROD BOYLE about a career which has been anything but ordinary.

Mick Siebert is one of those fighters truly suited to the game. With a record of 23 fights for 20 wins, 19 of those coming by way of knockout, he has carved out his reputation in spectacular fashion. An interviewer ringing him up for a chat would be intimidated, but fortunately, Siebert in conversation is the absolute opposite of the man he is in the ring. He is relaxed and jovial when speaking from the couch in his Darwin home.

Siebert is, like so many others, a fighter who didn’t have a distinguished career in sports early on. “I didn’t do much of any sport really; a bit of rugby. I was always getting into fights, though, so I learned a fair bit that way.” Mick’s particular brand of talent soon found an appropriate outlet in the martial arts. “I started Kung Fu when I was 12, and I did that for years. When I turned 17, I entered a full-contact tournament in Sydney, and I won! My dad told me there wasn’t any future in fighting, though, so I gave it up.” Following  his father’s advice, Siebert turned his attention to the responsible business of earning a living. In the process, he met and married his wife, Claudine. The years between 17 and 24 were dominated by a working man’s concerns.

His son, Jordie, was born when Mick had turned 24. “Jordie was born premature,” he says, “and I needed to get my frustration out. So I entered the Northern Territory Tough-Man Competition.” Mick found this went well; he won all his fights, and was crowned the champion. “There was no Muay Thai in those days,” Mick remembers, “That was as close as it got. The rules were pretty similar to Modified Thai; no elbow or grapple, but you could knee.” Perhaps it was Mick’s habitual success that made him feel that fighting was the sport for him. “Fighting was something I’d always wanted to do, so after that, I decided to go back and give it a go.”

When asked how Mick’s wife, Claudette, felt about it, he replies that he had “only planned a few fights, so she thought it was ok. There was no gym at that time; all I had was a bag and a couple of mates.” This statement makes you wonder if any of those mates are still alive to tell the tale. One of them, Jason Troucheau, a former boxer himself, has been Mick’s trusted trainer and corner-man since that time. It proved to be a successful formula; Mick found himself fighting for an Australian title in the space of 4 fights. After that, he made his first trip to Thailand.

“I trained at the WMC camp on Koh Samui. It was an amazing experience; I picked up pretty much everything I use in my training today. The thing about Thailand, like Darwin, is that it’s hot. I think the hot weather actually works to our advantage, in that sense. I really like the Thai approach; there’s a strong focus on fitness and work-rate.” Stefan Fox invited Siebert to enter a 4-man eliminator being held at that time. In characteristic fashion, he won all four fights by knockout. While training at the WMC camp, he also met fellow Australian Muay Thai superstar, Paul Slowinski.

“Slowinski’s the best in Australia,” Siebert enthuses. “He’s an absolute gentleman; I really rate him. I spent a lot of time training with him down on Samui. He’s a good mate. I wouldn’t fight him.”

When he returned, Mick founded his own place to train, Performance Gym. The gym has grown in-step with Siebert’s reputation. As the main event on his own shows, he has been almost single-handedly responsible for nurturing the growth of Muay Thai and kickboxing in the Northern Territory.

“We’ve built a strong following up here now,” he says. “We get 1,200 people to a show – minimum. Last time, we got about 2,000.”

While successful, Siebert’s career has been uneven. He has fought, won, and then disappeared for sometimes as much as three years at a time. This hasn’t been by choice; injury has played a big part in his career.

“Over the years, I’ve broken both my ankles,” he says. “At one stage, they were giving me a lot of trouble. They hurt so much, I had to take painkillers in order that I could sleep.” The pain may have been bad, but it wasn’t enough to keep Siebert out of the sport he so obviously loved. He was back in the gym soon after, training and sparring.

Because of his ankles, skipping and running don’t figure at all in his training regimen. “It’s either swimming or cycling,” he says. His training has also been severely limited by the size of his chosen sport in his home town.

“Generally, I’ll start my session with an hour on the bag. From there, I’ll do four rounds on the pads with some of the guys from the gym. After that, I’ll spar. I have done some sparring with Jason (Troucheau), but he doesn’t kick, so it’s pretty much just boxing.” Mick employs a very basic approach to conditioning. “I don’t like lifting weights,” he says, “I find it too boring. I follow a piece of advice Tony Bonello gave me; ‘If it’s heavy, lift it.” This approach is very much the essence of modern MMA training. Lifting uneven loads in unusual ways develops a real all-round strength which lends itself to practical application.

Regardless of limited training, injury or otherwise, 2009 saw Siebert walking tall on the world stage. “I fought on ‘The Challenger,’ a K1 rules promotion in Macau. They called me up with two weeks notice, so I decided I’d jump in and give it a go.” His opponent was a Dutchman fast becoming known to Australian kickboxing fans – Brian Douwes. Douwes is a rising star at Team Aerts. He made his breakthrough on the K1 Europe 2008 show, and also fought Thor Hoopman in Hong Kong six months before meeting Siebert. Mick says the experience “Put the quest in perspective. It was my kind of fight; a hard one, whether it comes out win, lose or draw. I lost, but I feel that I did well to take it to a decision.”

The combined pressures of family responsibility, age and injury were beginning to weigh heavily; he saw that retirement was looming. “I felt that I needed one more hard fight to prove myself.” And so, old adversary Ben Edwards offered to fight Mick, putting his ISKA World Title on the line to sweeten the challenge.

Their previous meeting had ended very quickly when one of Edwards sledgehammer punches found its mark a few seconds into the first round. This time around, Siebert put everything into his preparation, pushing himself to the limit and bringing in the broadest range of sparring partners he could find. Unfortunately, this fight ended early, because of a cut. “I split my shin and I thought it was a compound fracture; I could see the bone through the gash.” The doctor saw it too, and called an end to the contest. Edwards kept his title and Siebert hung up his gloves.

This decision to retire was even more complex after he had an epileptic fit one day after training earlier in the year. “The doctor says it’s something brought on by training so hard in the heat. The Edwards fight was a disappointment; I really wanted a hard finish. The last few fights have really brought me to the limits of my training, and it’s a big part of why I’m retiring. It’s just not viable to continue.”

A big part of Mick’s legacy is the gym he founded, which has become the hub for the sport in his state-of-origin. He is the head-trainer there and passes on the know-how he has developed in what has been a short career in terms of fight experience, spread over a long period of time for exceptional results.

“Muay Thai is going from strength to strength up here. I’ve got a young middle weight, Trent Hanson, who has seven fights for six wins. We also have a young bloke named Martino Tchong, who has a lot of skills.”

When asked about advice for young fighters, he says that the key to success is to “give it all you’ve got”. He doesn’t support truancy, however. “If I find out a young bloke is wagging school to come to training, I won’t train him. I tell them all that they have to work first, and fight after. That’s what I believe.” Given the fickle nature of the fight game many people, especially parents, would agree with this as good advice. Regardless, the future of the Northern Territory is being nurtured by skilled, experienced hands. There is also plenty of the fighter left in him. When asked about a possible comeback in the future, Mick gives a grudging laugh.

“Never say never,” he says.

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