Rade Opacic Vows Francesko Xhaja Won’t Stop His World Title Charge

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Rade Opacic is one of the fastest-rising stars in ONE Super Series, and he’s adamant that Francesko “Smile” Xhaja won’t stop his mission to reach the top.

The Serbian striker has already blasted his way to a perfect 3-0 slate on the global stage, and he knows the ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title will be within reach he can defeat Xhaja at ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE on Friday, 28 January.

In this exclusive interview, the 24-year-old Opacic discusses his sensation run in ONE so far, his excitement for this battle with the Albanian, and his desire for a rematch with ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion Roman Kryklia

ONE Championship: In your last bout, you moved to 3-0 in ONE with three finishes. How do you view your first year with the promotion?

Rade Opacic: First of all, I’m very thankful and grateful for the contract with ONE and fighting with the promotion for one year. The first year was good. I got three wins and three KOs. It couldn’t be better, so I’m happy, and I’m happy that I’m fighting every couple of months. I would even like to fight more, at least four or five times a year, so I’m good, busy, with fights scheduled and that’s it.

ONE: You used that year to make a big statement. How much of an impact do you think you’ve had in the heavyweight kickboxing division so far?

RO: I think I showed that everybody who’s going to fight me that that I’m a good fighter, and everybody’s going to train hard for me. But I’m getting ready for everybody. I don’t care who is in front of me, I just want to fight. Like I told you, I want to fight a lot, and it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. I want to become a World Champion and stay as a champion for many years – that’s my goal.

Rade Opacic lands a right knee to Patrick Schmid's head at ONE: FIRST STRIKE.
ONE: You scored a first-round finish against Patrick Schmid in October. You guys had been booked to fight each other a few times, and it got delayed. Can you take us through the experience and review your performance?

RO: So for that fight, it was booked a couple of times, and then finally when we had the date booked, I was so ready, bro. I was in amazing shape because we were supposed to fight in April, but then that was denied, and I came back and trained again. When it was booked for October, I was in awesome shape, and I was ready for everything, every kind of situation with him. 

So when I did eventually fight him, it looked like I was way better than him, but it was just that I was so ready. He’s a good fighter, but I put my style of fighting and my tempo on him, and eventually, it happened like that. He’s a tough opponent – he took a lot of heavy shots.

That fight for me was like a sprint. When I first felt that I had him, I went all out, full force, and I rushed a little bit too much, because sometimes when you give it all you’re open. Someone can counter you. 

When I felt the first time that I had him, I went too much just to finish and that’s actually what happened in my fight before him with [Bruno] Susano. I need to be more patient, to look for a shot, not just rush in, be a little bit smarter.

ONE: Even with a dominant victory, there are always things you can learn, right? 

RO: Yeah, always. I always look at my fights, even when I win or lose. I look at my mistakes, what can I fix, and what can I do better next time. In the end, it was a good win for me, it was a good performance. So I’m happy with that fight. He’s a tough guy. He took a lot of shots. Respect to him.

ONE: Your next opponent is Francesko Xhaja. How much do you know about him? 

RO: Yeah, I follow him. There was some show back in the day that we were supposed to fight on, but it never happened. I have known him for some time. I know he’s a good fighter. He had some good fights. He’s up-and-coming also like me, so it’s going to be a really good matchup.

I can’t wait for it. I see him, he’s a technical fighter, he throws combinations. But man, I can’t wait to get inside and start putting my hands and kicks on him. I’m looking forward to that fight.

ONE: What do you think you’ve got over him that’ll be to your advantage?

RO: I think everything. I’m a little taller than him. We have similar experience, we’re both hungry, but that fight is more than a fight. He’s just in the way of me going for that belt, and I’m going to do everything to beat him. It’s as simple as that. I just can’t wait for the fight.

ONE: From what you’ve seen of Xhaja, where do you think is the most dangerous?

RO: He throws kicks, some good middle kicks, and high kicks. His boxing is also good. He’s technical. It’s going to be a good fight. I like to fight fighters like him, technical guys that stand there and take shots. I see he throws everything. 

To be honest, I don’t look at him too much what he does. I look at me and what I’m going to throw at him. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m just going to go and bang and try to hurt him, and that’s it, man. Go for another win, for another KO, and nothing’s going to stop me from doing that. 

ONE: He is debuting in ONE, but you’re 3-0 and you’ve got a lot of momentum now. He’s going to try to make a name off beating of you. What does that mean to you?

RO: It doesn’t put me under some pressure, to be honest. I don’t look at it that way. I’m not thinking about what can I lose or what he can make from me. I’m going there to hurt him. And I just look at him as another opponent.

Literally, the simple thing is I’m going for the win and thinking about that. All those other things, I don’t care about. They don’t bother me. I’m just going to go to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s one round, two rounds, three rounds, I’m going to be ready. I am going to give him a sweet welcome to ONE, and that’s it. 

ONE: We’ve seen a lot of different things from you in your fights. You’re a very versatile fighter. Are you going to come out and throw everything in your repertoire this time?

RO: I always start the fight with simple things. Simple things are the key to winning the fights. When I get more chances, I throw something else. In my last fights, I did a lot of body shots, I’m sure that he’s going to be watching for that and trying to protect his liver. I will mix it up again, and when I see an opening, I will throw it.

You can always expect everything from me. You can always expect high kicks, spinning kicks, knees, everything. Everything is on the table. But I saw him also throw everything, so it’s going to be a good fight for the fans and to prove to him that I’m better. 

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ONE: If you keep winning, you’re likely to face ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion Roman Kryklia at some point as he aims for a second belt. You lost to him a couple of years ago. Tell us about that first fight and how much you’ve changed since then.

RO: Eventually, a fight with Kryklia will happen, and I want it to happen. People probably want it to happen, the matchmakers want it to happen. I know that in the near future, we will meet again. 

For our first time, to be honest with you, I was a boy fighting. Yeah, he beat me. He was way better at that time. But I was just a boy, you know. Now it’s different. 

I take this very seriously, trust me. I live like a soldier – morning training, evening training, recovery in the middle of the day, eating, everything like a soldier. I really give 100 percent into this, and I’m way stronger, way faster, way stronger mentally. So this time would be very, very different than the last time. 

We’ll see when that’s going to happen but I think either probably this year or next year, maybe the next fight. I’m looking forward to any opponent. This division is getting bigger, and more fighters are assigned to the heavyweight division. I’m going to welcome any of them. But Kryklia – it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be a huge fight.

Read more: How To Watch ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE Live On 28 January

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