ONE Championship’s stacked year of events kicks off in just a few weeks’ time.
The promotion will open 2018 with ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, live from the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, on Saturday, 20 January. In the main event, Singapore’s Tiffany “No Chill” Teo will challenge “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan for the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship.
We take a look at five incredible athletes on the card who proved they were indeed kings of courage, and battled through adversity to become stars inside the ONE cage.
Jakarta’s own Stefer Rahardian is sure to have the backing of the Indonesian crowd when he takes on Pakistan’s Muhammad “The Spider” Imran in the night’s co-main event, but the undefeated flyweight had to overcome overwhelming adversity to get here.
“Eppen,” as the kids in his Central Jakarta neighborhood call him, had to overcome the death of his older brother and the break-up of his parents’ marriage early in his life, and found himself the target of bullies in school.
Even after finding martial arts, the adversity kept on coming, as he suffered a potentially career-ending ACL injury early in his career. But hard work and help from his gym gave him the chance to bounce back, and Rahardian has been determined to make the most of his opportunity ever since. He captured the 2016 ONE Flyweight Indonesian Tournament Championship, and heads into 2018 with a perfect 7-0 record.
With his stated intention of continued improvement and humility, victory on home soil will give “Eppen” the perfect boost at the start of 2018, as victory against Imran would earn him a shot at the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
Five-time BJJ world champion Leandro Ataides is riding a two-bout win streak heading into ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, but things were not always so rosy for the former ONE Middleweight World Title challenger.
First, he was knocked out by Igor Svirid in just 17 seconds in his first world title shot. Then, he fell to a three-bout losing skid following two more tough losses. However, all of that paled in comparison to the loss of his sister right after.
“She developed a kidney problem at age 15 because of our father’s death. She was always by my side,” Ataides recalls of his sister. “I always did my best to learn from my father. And thinking of him, I am sure that everything he did motivates me.”
His determination to revive his career and honor their memory saw him produce a flying-knee knockout victory over Mohamed Ali at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION in December 2016. He followed up that win with an impressive display of his all-round striking as he defeated Poland’s Michel Pasternak by unanimous decision at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS in August 2017.
Now, the hulking Brazilian faces former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash, in a highly-anticipated bout that could propel the winner into a world title contest against reigning champion Aung La N Sang later in 2018.
Victory — and a shot at the middleweight world title — would allow Ataides to continue honoring his family, while seeking to inspire others who are faced with tragic circumstances in their lives.
Miao Jie has a reputation for finishing her opponents in super-quick time. Perhaps it is because she knows she has a son looking up to her at home.
Nicknamed “Supermom,” China’s Miao faces the challenge of competing at the elite level of ONE’s women’s strawweight division, all while looking after her family as a single mother.
Despite the testing circumstances of bringing up her young son single-handedly, Miao has had great success in competition, and claimed a bronze medal in the BJJ World Championships before transitioning to the cage and racking up an impressive 6-1 professional record.
That remarkable start to her martial arts career included two standout performances inside the ONE cage, as she finished Mona Samir and Amira Hafizovic in 49 and 45 seconds respectively to register the two fastest stoppage victories in ONE women’s history.
All of Miao’s victories have come via submission, with her last three wins all coming via first-round armbar, so fans would be advised not to blink when she steps back into the cage at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE to meet Ukraine’s Irena Kyselova.
Vitaly Bigdash calls the ONE cage his home now, but the former ONE Middleweight World Champion led a nomadic life in his formative years, as his family relocated frequently around Russia.
Bigdash’s father was a Russian military officer, meaning the family moved from place to place with every change in his dad’s assignment. But young Bigdash found a spiritual centre through martial arts, which was inspired by video tapes of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies.
He took up Kyokushin karate, and soon became a successful student of the discipline, winning several tournaments. He then transitioned to Muay Thai, before the lure of the cage saw him turn professional in 2012.
When he finally competed for the ONE Middleweight World Title in 2015, he had to show the heart of a champion to recover from multiple knockdowns. He then battled his way to a thrilling comeback win over then-titleholder Igor Svirid in one of the most thrilling contests in ONE’s history.
Bigdash lost his belt to Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang in June 2017, but he will be looking to kickstart his charge back to the world title on 20 January when he faces Ataides.
Cambodia’s Thai Rithy was led to combat sports in an effort to help his family. The 19-year-old was raised by a family of farmers in Cambodia’s Kandal Province. His parents barely made enough money to put food on the table, and they certainly could not afford any of life’s luxuries or even put Rithy through school.
To help make their lives easier, Rithy participated in martial arts — first kun khmer, then wrestling, and then, finally, he entered the cage. He made his professional debut in October 2013, and soon captured the KWC3 Featherweight Title before joining ONE in late 2017.
Rithy will attempt to right the ship against Indonesian sensation “The Terminator” Sunoto in just a few weeks, and show the world just how courageous he can be inside the ONE cage.