Indonesians have not exactly taken ONE Championship by storm. The much hyped Fransino Tirta only managed one fight for the promotion before retiring with a hand injury.

It is an issue Eko Roni Saputra is looking to address. The 30 year old is on a four fight winning streak and feels he is ready to face opponents in the upper echelons of the flyweight division.

Saputra wants to break into the top five this year but knows it will not be easy to overcome the top flyweights on the ONE Championship roster,

“For me, it is clearly a challenge. Success is definitely not easy, it requires lots of hard work and effort. That is why I love challenges, especially with all the naysayers around us. For me, personally, I keep my head in a positive direction, continue training hard, and perfecting my game.”

Wrestling background

He comes from a wrestling background but feels he is a different fighter today to the one that made his MMA debut in 2019,

“I think I have grown heavily in striking. I feel more comfortable with my striking (and) it’s easier for me because on the ground, you require more stamina and physical strength. If you lack those, you will surely gas out when you’re back in the stand-up. It is different with striking.”

Wrestling is his bread and butter but Saputra sees striking as a way to pace himself during a fight,

“When striking, you can still maintain your distance, move backward, and block the shots, but on the ground, you have to be very active.”

High praise

He has primarily used his wrestling wo win four fights out of five for ONE Championship and Saputra says he received praise from a UFC legend back in 2018,

“I did train with Urijah (Faber) at Evolve. He came here to train and asked me to wrestle in the ring. I think he was a bit overwhelmed with me in wrestling. After training, he told me that I am quite good at wrestling.”

Saputra had yet to make his MMA debut at that stage but was boosted by the recognition from a former UFC title challenger,

“It motivated me even more. I can compete with them, especially knowing that Urijah came from a big gym in the United States. That made me want to train even more in wrestling and MMA, and it also ignited my spirit.”

Past experience

Saputra got in three fights per year, being based full time at Evolve MMA in Singapore has helped him stay active. He has not fought since October and is hoping to be back in action soon,

“I am always ready. I have been developing myself. I was, and still am, always focused on mixed martial arts. I know from my past experience, especially in my debut, that I played too much on the ground. I need to perfect my striking and mix it up with my ground game.”

While Saputra is no longer based in Indonesia he is proud to represent the country. He says the experience of training in Singapore has been vital to his success and urges his compatriots to be more confident when they step inside the ring or cage to compete,

Nothing is impossible. So, my message (to Indonesian fighters) is to not feel overwhelmed when you are fighting foreign athletes. We can compete and win.”