Oron Kahlon, one of Israel’s top fighters, sports a sterling 16-0 pro record yet is largely unknown outside of his homeland because he’s predominantly feasted on competition in the Middle East.
Blessed with movie star good looks and James Bond-esque mystique (literally), the 32-year-old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt seems perfectly suited to shooting commercials and highway billboards for Mercedes Benz or Rolex. Instead, “The Phenom” is busy hunting an even bigger opportunity: the chance to fight and prove himself inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon.
For nearly his entire life, Oron has been groomed to be a professional fighter and compete on the grandest stage. The son of an Israeli military general, he and his brother, Bar, have been practicing punches and roundhouse kicks under their father’s experienced eye since they were two years old. Somewhat amazingly, Oron has never worked a “real job”: The Martial Artist Life is the only job he’s ever known, ever had.
Journalist Frank Curreri Forza, himself a longtime martial artist, first met Oron roughly a decade ago when both were training at the famed Robert Drysdale gym alongside UFC fighters such as Forrest Griffin, Frank Mir, Gray Maynard, Martin Kampmann, Joseph Benavidez, Tyson Griffin and dozens of others.
What Forza noticed about Oron, what especially stood out in 2009 and 2010, was how efficiently and effortlessly Oron moved — particularly the Israeli’s deft foot movement, remarkable sense of timing and advanced understanding of distance management in the stand-up game.
At the time, the sport “mixed martial arts” (MMA) existed, but relatively few fighters in the world successfully and seamlessly blended them together. And so during sparring sessions a decade ago, Oron often seemed to toy and play around with his training partners — who happened to be some of the toughest dudes on the planet. No matter where the fight went, Oron was dangerous. You want to trade punches? Oron had earned a black belt in Karate and “Survivor” (an Israeli martial art) and had trained for years in boxing. His extensive judo and wrestling background allowed him to decide whether the fight stayed standing or hit the ground — and he owned the nastiest foot sweep/trips I’d seen since former UFC champion Lyoto Machida. Oron often seems to be two or three steps ahead of his opponents and training partners.
It’s not often you meet a martial artist who owns six black belts, plus a masters level in Capoiera, and it’s precisely that incredibly versatile smorgasbord that helps Oron keep opponents off-balance and constantly guessing. He also benefits from being a natural athlete — he’s been executing back flips, handstands and cartwheels for most of his life. In fact, the “Movement Training” that is sweeping the U.S. and other countries at the moment has been a staple of Oron’s training for more than 20 years (the Brazilian version, commonly called “Gimnastica Naturale” has been around for decades and also mimicks the movements of monkeys, lions, crocodiles and other animals — imitations designed to improve human and athletic performance).
The name Ido Portal is huge in movement training circles, and Oron and Ido know each other well since they both trained under the same instructor in Israel.
Few figures have sparked awareness of movement training like Conor McGregor, the famed fighter and two-division UFC world champion.
McGregor’s movement coach? Ido Portal, of course.
Ido and Oron go way-back and are friends — they trained together in Israel under the same martial arts movement coach.
For the past decade, Oron and Bar Kahlon have journeyed to Las Vegas for a month or so to train and sharpen their skills at Randy Couture’s “Xtreme Couture” gym and Robert Drysdale’s jiu jitsu school.
I caught up with Oron at Whole Foods to talk about his future, devoting his entire life to the fight sports, and why he thinks he’s ready for the UFC octagon.