Adrian “Papua Badboy” Mattheis is on a mission to become one of Indonesia’s most celebrated and inspirational martial arts heroes. Whenever he steps into the ONE Championship cage, however, he has the tendency to get blinded by his emotions.
Before he even locks up with an opponent, he is engaged in a battle with himself.
“I get nervous,” the 24-year-old admits. “I cannot focus or control my feelings.”
Maybe with good reason. That inner battle of nerves may have began when Mattheis was a small boy growing up in Indonesia in the late 1990s. Back then, his country was going through political turmoil, with religious violence taking place in various parts of the country.
It was then, living on the Maluku islands, that Mattheis saw something no person – let alone a child – should ever see. The Mattheis family was Christian, and some among the community they lived in were bent on persecuting them, simply because of that.
Staring straight ahead, he blankly recalls how a mob set upon his grandfather. The old man was an amputee after stepping on a landmine. That, however, evoked no pity from the crowd, which took his life.
Young Mattheis then remembers his mother springing into action. She scooped up his older sister and the future martial artist, who was no more than 6 years old at the time, and fled. Amazingly, they stayed ahead of the mob, and eventually retreated into the jungle.
The trio later had to find their way to a boat so they could cross to the neighboring island of Papua to be reunited with Mattheis’ father.
“It was chaos. We ran from village to village,” he recollects.
Mattheis has seen the very worst of human behavior, so it is not too surprising that street fights and delinquency came easily in his teenaged years. He is quick to admit he was a “wild child.” But in 2012, “Papua Badboy” started curbing his behavior, and that is all thanks to martial arts.
“For me, martial arts is not just about how to learn to punch and kick someone. I feel martial arts is more about how to control yourself, and manage your emotions and mind. It teaches us to be brave in all situations, as well as disciplined and open-minded. All of this I got after I started martial arts training for the first time,” he explains.
“Martial arts has given much to me. [It has made me] healthier, more powerful, calmer, and closer to my God. Martial arts brought me closer to the church and to my religion, and with martial arts, I can give something to my mother and make her proud of me.”
Having set his life on track through his martial arts training, Mattheis decided to make his family even prouder by furthering his education and enrolling in the Fisheries University Of Jakarta in 2013.
Located on campus, the school’s marine focus inspired the name for the gym he trains at: Tigershark Fighting Academy.
The Indonesian student’s coach and mentor is none other than ex-ONE Championship welterweight competitor Zuli “The Shark” Silawanto, who is one of the nation’s first martial arts heroes, and a lecturer at the school.
“Four years ago, in my very first encounter with my coach Zuli “The Shark’ Silawanto, I said to him that I wanted to be a martial artist like him. I told him I wanted to compete in ONE Championship someday,” Mattheis recalls.
“He is the one who has trained me, guided me, gave me the spirit, and was able to see the advantages and disadvantages that will make me a better athlete. He is not only a coach, but also acts as a parent and teacher for me. He always assures me that I can reach my dream.”
His dreams came true when he made his ONE Championship debut in August 2016, where he knocked out a pair of opponents within two minutes to claim the ONE Strawweight Indonesia Tournament Championship. However, he experienced some tough luck in the bouts to follow.
“Papua Badboy” went on a three-bout skid, losing to some of the division’s elite, including former strawweight world titleholder Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke. The lack of experience and his emotions got the best of him, but the recent college graduate seems to have gotten it all under control.
Mattheis displayed heavy strikes, fierce escapes, and a commanding knowledge of submissions, ultimately tapping out his adversary in the first round via rear-naked choke in front of his countrymen at the Jakarta Convention Center.
No longer blinded by his emotions, Mattheis can unleash his true potential. And, with every victory, he moves closer to achieving all of his growing goals.
“I want to be a world champion, and give my best for my family and for my nation,” he states.
“The eastern region of Indonesia is a hard region. Fighting on the street and violence are common there. I am motivated to show them that it would be better and more useful to have achievements through martial arts than fighting on the streets and hurting each other.”