The victory is even more impressive considering it was only Di Bella’s fourth professional fight. His pro-record is now 4-0. “Fighting is in my blood,” says Di Bella. “It’s second nature to me – like walking.” The match was organized by Glory, a company widely regarded as the premier kickboxing league in the world. Di Bella, 20, is one of the youngest competitors in the history of the league and the first to hail from Quebec. The potential for this prodigy seems limitless and it’s no wonder when you discover his roots.
The Di Bella family name is well-known among the martial arts community in Montreal. Jonathan’s father Angelo was an International Sports Karate and Kickboxing Association world champion kickboxer in his own right. In 1988, Angelo founded Di Bella Kickboxing & Martial Arts on St-Michel. “It’s where I got my start on the mats, watching since I was a few months old,” says the young Di Bella. And now he’s proudly following in his father’s footsteps, a tradition which grants him invaluable experience in his trade. “He’s my coach as well as my dad, so I feel more comfortable,” says Di Bella. “He’s the only one I trust in the ring.”
And in the ring, Di Bella is intense, lightning-quick and calculating, something he says “switches on and off when fighting.” But out of the ring Di Bella is affable, polite and seems wise beyond his years – in stark contrast to stereotypes about fighters (and millennials, for that matter). He’s humble when recognized, even by other athletes. But he’s aware of the danger involved in combat sports at this level. “We’re risking our lives in the ring. I know anything can happen – even if I’m winning a fight, one little mistake can end a career. You have to think positive.”
As for combat sports being misunderstood, he explains, “A lot of people who aren’t fight fans think it’s barbaric. In fights, we have to use our brain. It’s a sweet science: sometimes we have to work a jab or work defense. Some fights end in a knockout, other fights you have to out-score your opponent. You might even be having an off-night but those with true characters adapt to their fights.”
Whether Di Bella is fighting or training for a fight, his love for his roots and family is always apparent. “I’m proud to be Italian-Canadian and to represent Montreal,” he says. “I wear my flags on my shorts.” Di Bella’s paternal grandparents are from Salerno, Campania, while his mother’s family hails from Potenza, Basilicata. The Di Bellas are a typical family despite their unique situation, and they spend a lot of time together – even if father and son are always talking about fighting.
Beyond recent success and victory at his biggest fight to date, Di Bella plans to continue living his dream. “Kickboxing is my true love and there’s always my father’s gym. Even if this leads me into boxing or even acting, whatever makes me happy in the moment, I’ll decide.”