The power of martial arts can salvage the life of a troubled teen – just ask Arian Sadikovic.
The 27-year-old German found a new start in combat sports, and that journey has led to a challenge of ONE Lightweight Kickboxing World Champion Regian Eersel in the main event of ONE 156 this Friday, 22 April.
Sadikovic didn’t always have it easy, but he ultimately followed his newfound passion to achieve incredible success.
Find out how the striker nicknamed “Game Over” made it from his humble beginnings to this World Title fight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
A Child Of Refugees
Sadikovic’s parents are Bosnians who fled the brutal Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s to find a safe haven in Germany.
“Game Over” was born and raised in Hannover as the middle child of three brothers, and though he was too young to recall most of the family’s early hardships, he knows his mother and father struggled to adjust.
“For my parents, life in Germany was hard for the first few years. They lived in the refugee home [with me and my older brother]. They didn’t speak German. They had nothing in Germany. So yeah, the start was very hard.”
Still, the decision to resettle in Germany paid off for the brothers, who enjoyed a comfortable childhood away from the dangers that unfolded in Bosnia.
Their adopted nation was hospitable to refugees, and Sadikovic was given many opportunities to participate in organized athletics – particularly soccer.
“Germany is a very good, multicultural country. Also the fact that we were always doing sport as a kid, it kept us away from the streets. I played football for 10 years. I wanted to become a football star.”
From The Streets To The Gym
Things started to take a turn for Sadikovic when he moved into his teen years. While there was never anything too serious, he began to make some poor decisions that caught the attention of those around him.
In fact, it took an intervention from his family – and a new sport – to stop the German from potentially going down the wrong path.
“Game Over” had attended some kickboxing bouts with his father and enjoyed watching them, but it was his elder sibling who pushed him to try the martial art.
“At one point, my big brother told me, ‘Man, you’re making a lot of problems outside. You need to defend yourself, so come with me to a kickboxing gym.’
“At that time, he was doing taekwondo, and he told me, ‘If you like boxing and kickboxing, come with me to the gym.’ So it started. I was 13 or 14.”
Sadikovic continued with his sessions, but unlike many others, he wasn’t initially drawn to kickboxing based on the thrill or rush of training.
Instead, it was another motive that fueled the youngster’s commitment – revenge.
“To tell you the truth, I went to the gym, and a few guys punched me, and that woke up my ego.
“I was a little fat guy. Those guys they were older and bigger than me. I was so angry – I wanted to find a way to punch them back, to get better than them, so I kept going back.”
‘Kickboxing Changed My Life’
The emotions that drove Sadikovic to continue practicing also helped him achieve fast success in his new endeavor.
Once he learned how to channel that anger and ego productively into kickboxing, his coaches saw immense potential in the young Hannover native. Just a short time later, the striker’s competitive career was underway.
“I was a very aggressive child in the gym, training a lot, and after a few months, my coach put me in an amateur fight.”
Having devoted himself to kickboxing, the Fightschool Hannover and Team CSK representative went on to post a 21-5 record as an amateur before making the decision to turn professional.
He then proved himself as one of the top competitors on the stacked European circuit and eventually turned his attention to the world stage.
Those experiences allowed Sadikovic to continuously develop his skills inside the ring – and equipped him much better for life outside of it.
“Kickboxing changed my life. It made me more disciplined and took all my aggression, all that bad energy. After training and fighting, it humbled me. I’m relaxed because of the training. Also, I learned how to work hard.”
Reaching For Gold In ONE Championship
With an exemplary pro slate of 21-3 with 10 knockouts, Sadikovic inked a contract to compete in ONE Championship.
That excellent performance earned “Game Over” a shot at dominant divisional king Regian Eersel – a career-defining opportunity for the rising star.
“Getting this World Title shot is definitely the best moment of my career. This is the best moment of my life in this sport.
“I fought a lot of very strong fighters in a lot of organizations, but of course [Eersel] is [the toughest opponent]. But I think everybody can be beaten.”
Sadikovic has big plans in the world’s largest martial arts organization, and it all starts with his main event clash against “The Immortal” this Friday.
It won’t be easy to snap Eersel’s 18-fight winning streak, but the World Title challenger has already climbed higher than most others and believes he can reach the pinnacle.
He desperately wants to secure the golden strap, knowing it would be a source of inspiration for his compatriots in Germany and for those in his ancestral homeland, too.
“Game Over” added:
“I want to become the Lightweight World Champion of ONE Championship. That’s my biggest goal.
“When I win the belt, I want to go back first to Germany. And later I also want to go to Bosnia – the place where my family grew up – to show them because I have a lot of family in Bosnia, and the most support I have is in Bosnia and Sandzak.”