There were many athletes who found success in 2020, but Eko Roni Saputra lived up to his “Dynamite” moniker and truly had a breakthrough year.
The Indonesian Wrestling Champion continued to add new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and striking skills to his dynamic repertoire at Evolve in Singapore, and he brilliantly utilized those tricks inside the Circle, earning a trio of dominant first-round submission victories.
First, Saputra forced Khon Sichan into submission with a rear-naked choke in February, and then he made Murugan “Wolverine” Silvarajoo tap out with his creative shoulder lock in October. A month later, he capped his year by making Ramon “The Bicolano” Gonzales submit to another trademark rear-naked choke.
But even though he had a remarkable year competing inside the Circle, Saputra wants to do even better in 2021. The Indonesian talks about his goals, the other flyweights who have stood out, what he wants to prove to people, and more in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: How is everything going in Singapore?
Eko Roni Saputra: Previously, we could only train with a group of four people, but now we are entering a new phase, and up to eight people are allowed to train. We are also permitted to have grappling training now. Overall, the situation is getting better here.
ONE: Do you know when you will be entering the Circle again?
ERS: There was an offer. However, my coach had another consideration. He wanted to make sure that I am in my best shape, considering that I have scored consecutive wins. My upcoming opponents must be someone in the higher echelon of the division, and I can’t afford to lose my momentum, so I needed more time because my last fight was in November.
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ONE: Your win over Murugan Silvarajoo made the Top 5 Submissions of 2020 list. How do you feel about that?
ERS: I was proud and honestly surprised. I think the fact that we wore mixed martial arts gloves made it possible for me to force and trap his arm behind my calf and craft that unorthodox submission.
It’s not entirely impromptu, though, because I had worked on my ground game before the match and tried various locks in several positions. I am happy to have read the situation well and managed to pull it off.
People started to call it the “Eko Lock,” and it became somewhat popular among my closest circle. My students at Evolve also praised that, and said they wanted to learn and try the technique.
Eko Roni Saputra ???????? takes out Murugan Silvarajoo with a CRAZY submission in the first round ???? #ReignOfDynasties
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, October 9, 2020
ONE: You now have four consecutive first-round finishes, which is an incredible feat. Could you look back at those wins and explain how that feels?
ERS: Actually, I was a bit nervous against Khon Sichan because the previous fight [against Kaji Ebin] ended abruptly. Hence, there was a certain degree of pressure inside of me to win this match convincingly.
And I did that, which boosted my confidence and led me to believe that I had the potential to compete in the stacked flyweight division. However, there were still doubts from fans because I won it via submission. Many deemed it ordinary, given my background in wrestling. Fans expected more striking exchanges.
Then I faced Murugan, a strong and durable fighter. But I managed to earn another quick finish.
Ramon Gonzales is the most experienced opponent I have faced, far more experienced than me in mixed martial arts because he has faced some top fighters in ONE Championship. I could see that he was very motivated to defeat me. Before the fight, my coaches repeatedly reminded me of the dangers he possessed and how important that match was.
I was just executing the game plan to attack him with my elbows until I got the opening to finish him via rear-naked choke. That win is my favorite from 2020. I was glad to earn another quick victory, and it would only mean that the next challenges will be far greater.
ONE: Speaking of your next challenges, do you have any particular opponent that you want to face next?
ERS: This question has been asked many times, but I couldn’t provide an appropriate answer yet. To be able to answer that, I need to know where my current place is in the flyweight division so we can analyze and guess who I could face next.
It’s not that I don’t want to face the top-level guys. I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea and think that I don’t know my place. Honestly, I am ready against anyone.
ONE: You mentioned that flyweight is a heavily stacked division. Do you see any newcomers that particularly stand out like you?
ERS: I think there are some athletes who could be considered on my level. [Yodkaikaew Fairtex] is on the rise, particularly after his last win. He has excellent leg kicks but could not unleash that against Tatsumitsu Wada, unlike his previous fights in Thailand.
There are still many athletes I have to overcome in the division, and I will fight anyone. I am not afraid, but I can’t mention names. Just like when I faced Ramon, it was only on two weeks’ notice, but I was up for the challenge even though I knew that he is a good karateka with fearsome kicks.
ONE: So how would you prepare yourself against top strikers?
ERS: There is a particular strategy against hard-hitters. Those with a striking background will avoid takedowns and keep giving pressure to maintain distance. I have been anticipating that by asking my sparring partners, like Hiroki Akimoto, to kick me hard.
ONE: Now that you have four consecutive first-round wins, do you have a message for the flyweight division?
ERS: I am preparing another surprise for my upcoming outings. I don’t know who I’ll face next, but I am determined to give my best.
I feel challenged to engage more in a striking battle, and there is a burning desire inside of me to get a KO or TKO. I don’t want people to only know me as a ground fighter just because of my wrestling background. I will show them.
ONE: Are you saying that the “Dynamite” is ready to explode?
ERS: Absolutely! I am going to make more and more explosions with my grappling and striking. The “Dynamite” is ready to explode!