ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion Roman Kryklia is ready to start his reign with a bang.
This Friday, 18 December, the Ukrainian colossus will make his first World Title defense against Andrei “Mister KO” Stoica in the main event of ONE: COLLISION COURSE, which emanates from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Kryklia may be the inaugural light heavyweight king, but he never would have reached this point without the right attitude.
The Ukrainian’s dedication to kickboxing helped him escape small-town life to travel the world in search of success. Ultimately, that sensational journey led him to the global stage and an opportunity to claim the richest prize in his sport.
Before he defends the gold for the first time, learn how he took advantage of his physical gifts to make history in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Kryklia was born in Krasnograd, a small town in eastern Ukraine. The 1990s were turbulent times in the country, and there was not much going on in the little European city.
Despite that, he still had a happy and carefree childhood.
“People could not afford much, that’s true. It was like that for most people, [but] not for a selected few, so not having much seemed normal,” he says.
“We used to spend most of our free time outside, hanging out with the boys on the streets – that was my school of life education.”
One thing that he did have from an early age was martial arts.
He started karate at the age of 6 when his father decided that the Burovik Martial Arts Club would be the best place to keep his son out of trouble.
“I was a bit of a prankster as a kid,” Kryklia admits. “I was naughty, so my parents looked at this school as a good place to discipline me. It was a busy club, I made many friends, and I loved the vibe.”
His coach, Valentin Kozhushko, became a mentor and, along with his father, helped teach the young Ukrainian the values that would become the foundation of his development as an athlete.
“The secret of my success is a combination of discipline and dedication,” Kryklia adds.
“My parents gave me good genes – I was tall and strong. But my dad and my coach made sure that I worked hard, and that I respected the gym and the ethos of martial arts.”
The Next Step
In 2008, Kryklia moved northeast to the second-largest city in the country, Kharkiv.
He arrived at Kharkiv National Institute, where he studied physics and astronomy, and he also joined a new gym that would take his martial arts skills to the next level.
“It was a good move for my family. To be honest, anyone who had any ambition in life left Krasnograd to pursue their luck elsewhere,” the Ukrainian says.
“I joined Maximus club and started training under Maxim Kiyko and Victor Demchenko, and I got hooked. Maximus was full of world-class talent. After the first year, I added kickboxing and Muay Thai to my repertoire and started thinking of going pro.”
Kryklia became the national youth kickboxing champion in 2008 and picked up a silver medal at the amateur Thai boxing championship in 2010, but his success came at the cost of his studies.
“I tried doing both – boxing and studying – but it did not last long. Soon, I started spending most of my time at the gym and not [in class],” he explains.
“After two years of problems, I transferred to Kharkiv National Automobile and Highway University. There, they needed me to deliver good results in sports, and in return, they helped me pass exams. They were very understanding. The dean realized that first and foremost, I was a sportsman.”
The arrangement worked out for everyone as he earned a diploma as an automotive engineer and helped to keep his school at the top of the university league.
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The Road To Professional Success
Following his success in the youth and amateur ranks, Kryklia began his professional career in 2011. His coach was impressed with his early progress, and paved the way for him to take the next big step in his life.
“Maxim showed videos of my fights to Andrey Gridin – the most famous coach in our part of the world,” the 29-year-old says.
“He is the head of a great school, but he is very selective. I was thrilled when Maxim told me I had to fly to Minsk in Belarus to audition.”
Gridin immediately saw the potential in the young heavyweight and took him under his wing. In 2013, Kryklia moved to Minsk and officially joined Gridin’s martial arts club, Chinook, full-time.
There, he went from strength to strength as he developed his signature, technical style. Gridin believes in “intelligent boxing” that prioritizes taking minimum damage while demonstrating impeccable technique and timing.
Allied with his height – he stands at 2 meters – Kryklia has built a 45-7 record and has won many honors including the KLF, A1, WAKO Pro, and FEA Grand Prix Titles.
Becoming A ONE Super Series World Champion
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Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, November 16, 2019
All of those bouts and titles led Kryklia to the most important match of his career.
Not only was this a chance for the Krasnograd native to finally even the score against the Dutch-Moroccan who beat him four years earlier, but it was also an opportunity to make history and win the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship.
Following a competitive opening stanza, he knocked out Khbabez in the second round to earn some redemption and capture the gold.
“The most important part of the plan was to not chase a knockout – my coach drilled it into my head. Tarik has a very aggressive style, so I was not going to rush. The plan was to watch him in round one, find my groove, and feel the rhythm of the fight,” Kryklia explains.
“I hoped I would KO him, so I just kept looking for a good moment. In the middle of the first round, I got him with a punch, and it motivated me to carry on. Then in round two, I went all-in with a kick and then connected with punches.”
Kryklia claimed the richest prize in the sport, and now, he is determined to keep it and build his legacy in The Home Of Martial Arts.
The Ukrainian’s first test as the division’s reigning king takes place on Friday, and he is determined to pass it with flying colors.
“For me, to be the World Champion is of course [a big] responsibility, so in my next fight, I must prove that I’m the best,” he says.
“The biggest motivation for my training is to prove to everybody that I’m #1 in the light heavyweight division.”