Indonesian wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter Eko Roni Saputra has vowed to put up an aggressive fight after spending months perfecting his skills and strategies to anticipate his upcoming opponent, Khon Sichan of Cambodia, who has a Muay Thai background.
Eko will meet Sichan at the ONE Championship MMA bout, dubbed ONE: Warriors’ Code, which will be held at the Istora Senayan sports stadium on February 7.
“As an MMA fighter, I’m still looking for my winning momentum. And I will be very aggressive in looking for that moment at the next ONE bout,” Eko told journalists on the sidelines of a training session at the Evolve MMA club in Singapore recently.
Eko said one of his biggest tasks would be forcing his opponent to follow his lead during the fight. He said he realised it wouldn’t be easy as he had originated from a different discipline.
“Facing an opponent from the Muay Thai discipline means that he will launch attacks mostly on the upper body. Once I can take him down and force him to fight me on the ground, I will have a bigger opportunity to win the fight,” he said.
In his last fight in October of last year, Eko benefitted from the condition of his opponent, Kaji Ebin of the Philippines, whose shoulder was dislocated after launching a few punches in the first 90 seconds. Eko was declared the winner, but he acknowledged that his quick win had failed to give him the proper introduction to the spectators.
Eko, who has a wrestling background, recognised that upper-body fighting skills had been his main focus since he shifted gears from wrestling to MMA in 2018.
He has been honing his skills by learning Muay Thai and Brazilian jiujitsu for ground battling techniques.
“The point is how to predict your opponent’s movement and then manage to anticipate the moment before he launches an attack by aggressively attacking him first. Speed, accuracy and power are the key words here,” he said.
Siyar Bahadurzada, an Afghan national who has been Eko’s coach for months, said Eko had a significant chance of becoming a great MMA fighter. Eko, he went on, had been fully transformed from a wrestler to an MMA fighter and had been equipped with skills both to initiate and anticipate attacks.
“Eko is the kind of fighter whose instinct, after getting punched in the face, tells him to retaliate. Based on this fact, he is going to get his opponent in so much trouble,” he said.
ONE Championship public relations director Tami Chan said Eko had been showing great talent, character and skill and, therefore, would show what he was really made of in the competition.
“Eko has been a complete package from the beginning. He is a hard worker who has good skills and character and this will be a great example for those who adore the sport,” she said.
Eko has a secret source of strength for whenever he has to face a difficult situation, including while preparing for a fight: his wife, Nurdila Agusta Fatmawati.
Nurdila, Eko said, scrutinised everything for her husband.
“I spend my days training, perfecting my skills with the coach and my friends at the gym. Thus, I don’t have the energy to do the thinking and analysis. Nurdila will come forward and do all of those things for me,” Eko said.
Nurdila, who attended Eko’s training session, acknowledged that she gathered all the information possible regarding Eko’s opponents. She would then compile the information and tell her husband what he needed to know about his opponent.
“I try my best to seek information and make it available to Eko. Information like what his opponent’s martial arts origin is, his social background and physical condition are useful, so Eko can further discuss this with his coach,” she said.
Nurdila, who used to be a track-and-field athlete herself, said she was afraid at first when Eko entered MMA bouts.
Eko’s debut early last year against Singaporean Nico Soe in Manila ended in a loss for Eko. The referee decided to stop the fight as Eko’s right eye was covered in blood dripping from his teared temple after several punches from Soe.
“I was crying back then, knowing Eko had to suffer like that. But now, I have opted to be there for him right from the start. Besides, Eko has always told me that my presence has always boosted his morale,” she said.
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network