“It’s a blessing. I can’t imagine my life any other way.”
It’s safe to say that 20 year old Robby Ostovich of Waianae, Hawaii figured out what he wanted to do in life a bit earlier than most. In fact, it was in his first bouts as a youth kickboxer, still in grade school, when he figured it out. He loved fighting, and he was pretty good at it. So one day, Robby was going to be an MMA fighter, just like his father.
Now, that’s not to say everyone was raised on the mats in the ohana (the Hawaiian word for family). Robby’s older sister, 22 year old Rachael? The activity she was devoted to, and describes as her “first love,” was cheerleading. But in high school, something would draw her to the same mats that her brother and father competed on. Wrestling and judo quickly became her passion, too.
Rachael would win the state title in judo, and Robby would finish third in the state in wrestling. Now, they’re prospects hoping to follow in the footsteps of Hawaii’s MMA champions.
Rachael and Robby’s father and trainer, Bob “Bob-O” Ostovich, was among the founders of Hawaii’s Jesus Is Lord fight team. That team of MMA pioneers fought in Hawaii’s seminal promotions in the 1990’s before stops in Shooto and elsewhere.
The team was well-known for their unusual genesis: a group of guys who knew each other from church, and decided to express their Christianity with the words “Jesus Is Lord” emblazoned on their T-shirts and ring attire. One might find it unusual to meet sparring partners at church; but here, it was a winning combination. The original JIL team included names like Ray Cooper and Stephen Palling, who were ranked among the best in the world at their respective weight classes in the early 2000’s.
A generation later, that same design is being worn proudly by a new generation, with the elder Ostovich serving as head trainer. “Bob-O,” whose best MMA moment was a heel hook victory over Jason Von Flue in 2001, remembers the old days and the team’s unique legacy with a smile.
“I was the least of the original members!” Bob laughs. “I was the oldest guy, too. I was just blessed to be around that talent. For me, it was always about the ministry. There’s power behind the name of Jesus Christ. It moves people in the right direction. People could see us training and say, wow, I didn’t think you could serve Christ and do that. I really think seeds have been sown in lives through the team.”
Now it’s Bob’s children, Robby and Rachael, who are turning heads and collecting MMA gold. The two are even often fighting, and winning, on the same shows — like last month’s Destiny MMA event in Honolulu.
That night, the still undefeated Rachael punched her way to a first round T/KO victory over Hannah Kampf of Washington, while Robby earned a unanimous judges’ decision over Justin Jaynes of Nevada.
It was Robby’s professional debut, and he selected a tough opponent. Jaynes had a wealth of amateur experience, stood at 3-0 as a professional, and is on the coaching staff at Randy Couture’s Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. But as in his successful amateur career, where he held Destiny’s amateur 155 lb title, Robby held strong and earned the victory with a potent mix of grappling and striking.
Rachael, who has won amateur titles with both Destiny MMA and Battleground MMA, is hoping to advance to the professional level soon as well. She intends to fight for Destiny MMA again in November.
Asked how it feels watching one another fight, the two give the same answer. Robby says he gets more nervous for Rachael’s fights than his own, and…
“He’s my little brother!” Rachael exclaims. “I feel I’m the closest person to him and I get more nervous for his fights than my own. But it’s brother/sister love. It’s a good thing.”
On the mat? Rachael looks as cool as an island breeze. Last month’s win brought her record to 5-0.
“The thing they have is their composure,” Bob says. “That’s important for any fighter, to not let their nerves get to them. When I was fighting, it was a real struggle. I felt I was fighting an uphill battle. But my kids, they’re just blessed with that. It’s who they are, and it showed early on.”
“In my life, faith and fighting go hand-in-hand, Robby explains. “I don’t think I’d be able to fight at the level I’ve been able to fight without my faith. There were times I felt a little depressed or nervous before a fight. My faith helped me push through that.”
“My fighting helps with my faith too,” he continues. “When I get nervous about fighting, I pray a lot more. Faith has helped me keep a level head; I think about what my faith says about carrying yourself and being humble.”
Rachael sums up the philosophy, which always seems to come with a smile: “We’re not perfect, but every day I try to be more.”