Eko Roni Saputra is ready to step up and take on some of the leading contenders after back-to-back victories in the ONE Championship flyweight division.
The restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak have caused the multiple-time Indonesian national wrestling champion’s momentum to slow down, but he will not let it grind to a halt as he aims for the top.
“The ongoing situation has affected my training as I can’t go to the gym, but I try to stay fit by exercising every day to maintain my physical condition,” he offers.
“I was preparing for a bout before the COVID-19 situation worsened. I did not know who I would face, but I was told to prepare so I have maintained my condition.”
Saputra has stayed motivated by visualizing some of the challenges he could face next. He has purposely set the bar high so that slacking is not an option.
He wants to take on world-class opposition when the action resumes inside the Circle, and one former World Champion, in particular, has caught his eye.
“Geje has faced my Evolve teammate Kim Kyu Sung and he is strong in striking, while I am a ground fighter. I hope to be able to face him someday. If I win, my ranking will improve because he is a former World Champion.
“I think my team has eyes on that bout as well, but I know I am new in ONE, and there are many challenges I have to overcome first. Flyweight is the division of hell.”
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The flyweight ranks are teeming with talent. Reigning kingpin Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes is due to face ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson soon, and the chasing pack all have their eyes on the gold.
To crack into the upper tier, Saputra still has to amass more experience. There are plenty of worthwhile match-ups for him, and India’s Gurdarshan “Saint Lion” Mangat is another opponent that is on his radar and could push him to new heights.
“Before they were postponed, I was told to prepare for the Jakarta and Singapore events, and I predicted I’d be matched against Mangat,” he says.
“He is strong, but I feel challenged to face a stronger opponent. Thank God I have begun to understand mixed martial arts techniques. I keep sharpening my skills as well. I am ready.”
“Saint Lion” is a well-rounded athlete with five knockouts and five submissions among his 15 career victories, but his striking has stood out in his two wins on the global stage.
He finished Finnish veteran Toni “Dynamite” Tauru with strikes in the third round last March and then outpointed Abro “The Black Komodo” Fernandes with a slick stand-up display in July.
Saputra’s vast wrestling pedigree could set him in good stead, and, after watching Mangat’s previous matches, he expects that the Extreme Couture and 10th Planet Las Vegas representative would try to keep the bout standing.
“Mangat is a striker who loves to throw punches and kicks. It will be a classic fight between a grappler and a striker,” he says.
However, he believes that if he can impose his skill set, he could enjoy the same kind of success as the Indian’s last opponent.
“I saw his last match against Reece McLaren and he was rear-naked choked. I think I would fight like McLaren, too,” he adds.
There is no easy road for the Borneo native to progress through the ranks. All he can do is continue to hone his craft, and he is in the perfect place to do that under the internationally-renowned coaching team at Evolve.
Saputra is not taking anything for granted, but he believes he could take a career-best victory and continue his rapid ascent if he were tasked to face Mangat in 2020.
“I like facing a striker, because here at Evolve, there are many strikers. [ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion] Nong-O Gaiyanghadao and [ONE Strawweight Muay Thai and Kickboxing World Champion] Sam-A Gaiyanghadao help me with that. They want me to kick and punch as hard as possible,” he explains.
“I think we’ll trade punches a lot. It’s inevitable because the match starts in a stand-up position. I need to exchange strikes before aiming for takedowns.
“I can’t predict the outcome — all fights are unpredictable — but think I can get a positive result.”