Serbian sensation Rade Opacic has put his nation on the map in ONE Super Series with a pair of stunning knockouts on the global stage.
Now, the 23-year-old striker hopes that a third consecutive victory over Patrick “Big Swiss” Schmid at “ONE on TNT I” will put him in the running for the inaugural ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship.
Before he competes on United States prime-time television next Wednesday, 7 April, learn all about Opacic’s incredible journey to The Home Of Martial Arts.
‘I Was Full Of Energy’
Opacic was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1997 and grew up in the Zemun district of the country’s capital city with his father, Djuro, his mother, Radmila, and his older brother, Ilija.
“My dad is a big guy — even taller than me — so that is where I get that from,” he says.
“He is a driver and works mostly in Europe. Most of the time, he was away and returned a couple of days a month, so I grew up mostly with my mum and brother.
“We always kept in contact, and he was there for me, but he was working hard, and I just got used to it. Sometimes, I just had to make decisions on my own, but that made me grow up a little bit.”
It was a fairly typical childhood for the young Serbian, though he struggled to find the best outlet for his youthful energy.
“Here in Serbia, we like to spend a lot of time with our friends. We did all the stuff that normal teenagers would do. Sometimes, [we were] a little wild, but it was all part of growing up,” he smiles.
“I was full of energy and knew it would be better to spend it in sports than on the street. I started playing football and basketball as a young kid because all the kids were doing it, so I played too. But it wasn’t for me.
“At the age of 10, I started doing a little taekwondo. I was okay. I was learning how to kick. It was good, but again, I didn’t find myself in it.”
Finding His Calling
When Opacic was 14, his father received a job offer in Canada that he couldn’t turn down. With that, the family upped sticks and moved to North America for two years.
Upon arrival, the teenager continued his taekwondo training but still hadn’t found his true passion. Then he came across kickboxing.
Opacic quickly became enamored with the exciting sport and took himself to a local kickboxing gym. Instantly, he knew it was what exactly what he’d been looking for.
“I watched the old K-1 shows from back then. I saw those guys, and I thought I wanted to be like them,” he recalls.
“From my first training session, I fell in love with it. I felt that it was part of me. I was still young, just a kid, but right away, I was very serious about it.”
The full-contact combat style resonated with the Belgrade native, and he entered the ring for the first time after just a few months of training. Aged 15, he stepped through the ropes to face an adult, and the bug he’d caught in training was amplified by the chance to perform under the lights.
“My first fight, I remember it was some older guy, and it was Thai boxing rules without the elbows,” Opacic says. “It was an exhibition fight, so they didn’t declare a winner, but I did really good. I enjoyed it. It felt so good. That was it for me.”
There was no doubt that Opacic had ignited his passion – and that nothing could get in the way of his pursuit of glory.
“When I came back to Serbia, I found Kik Boks Klub Sindjelić (KBKS) and continued training there ever since. My friends were hanging out and chasing girls and stuff, but I had my priorities,” he says.
“I started doing amateur fights. I won everything — I became the National Champion, the champion in the Balkan region, European Champion, and World Champion.
“I just thought, ‘Let’s see what the future will bring.’ I trained and accepted every fight. I was serious and dedicated then, and now I am even more serious.”
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Triumph From Adversity
While Opacic has reached the world’s premier platform for strikers at just 23, his success has not been an exclusively upward trajectory — though no martial arts career is.
But what often defines a fighter is being ready to accept a challenge and seize a big opportunity when it arises – and that’s what the burgeoning Belgrade native did.
“In sports, like life, you get obstacles and you have to keep moving forward. I got some losses and they were tough times, but from that, you have to get stronger, more serious, and work on your mistakes,” he says.
“In 2019, I won an Enfusion four-man heavyweight tournament in my city, Belgrade. It was a qualification for the final tournament that happened after, and I got to the final but lost by decision.
“Then the [COVID-19] pandemic happened and I could not fight until I got the call from ONE.”
Out of action and coming off a hard loss, Opacic got offered the biggest fight of his career against a man he considers a friend – Dutch veteran Errol “The Bonecrusher” Zimmerman.
The KBKS representative could have opted for less risk by turning down the opportunity until he hit his stride again, but instead, he snatched it with both hands — and delivered a career-best performance with a stunning knockout at ONE: BIG BANG II in December 2020.
“It was a little weird because we know each other and were actually friends, but a fight is a fight, and we could still be friends after it,” Opacic says.
“Errol has faced everybody and has many wins over a lot of good fighters, but I believed in myself. I just said, ‘I’m going to go and do my best,’ and that’s what I did. That KO allowed people to see me, and it was in a spectacular way.
“I would say the loss I had motivated me to be better and to do more to work, and that’s what made me stronger.”
Chasing ONE Gold
Opacic followed his knockout of Zimmerman with another impressive victory over Bruno Susano at ONE: UNBREAKABLE in January, and now at 2-0 with back-to-back finishes, he is the man of the moment in ONE’s heavyweight kickboxing ranks.
Next, he’ll face another tough fighter in Swiss slugger Schmid. It will be a stern test for the rising star from Belgrade — but one that is crucial if he wants to move toward his ultimate goal.
If he gets past the experienced “Big Swiss,” Opacic could stake his claim for a shot at the inaugural ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship in the near future.
“I’m happy to be in ONE, and I’m very glad that I can fight on the biggest stage in the world,” he says.
“Obviously, the short-term goal is to win my fight on 7 April, but my [ultimate] goal is to become the ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion.
“I have dedicated everything I have to this sport, so I’m going to do everything – and face anyone – to accomplish that.”