Young people find martial arts for a variety of different reasons. It could be purely for recreational purposes, protection against bullies, or even to help rein in their conduct and provide them with some discipline.
ONE Championship strawweight prospect Adrian “Papau Badboy” Matheis grew up accustomed to violence, so it was a necessity for him to learn how to defend himself, while also helping to curb his “wild child” behaviour.
Now he is a professional mixed martial artist in ONE Championship, and will be competing at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES against former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 26 May.
However, as a young boy, there was extreme violence all around him. His first fight was for survival.
At just the tender age of six, Matheis and his sister were witnesses to their amputee grandfather being set on by a mob, and killed for being in a religious minority, with only the quick reactions of their mother allowing them to escape to safety through the jungle.
“We ran from village to village,” the 23-year-old Indonesian recalls on their escape from Maluku, before the trio finally found safety in Papua, where they were reunited with his father.
“I learned you have to defend yourself,” he continued, though he learned the lesson in a way you would never want a child to experience. It was a tumultuous time in Indonesia in the late 90s, with civil unrest revealing underlying resentment and resulting in violence.
These experiences formed an integral part of who Matheis is. They cannot be erased from his memory, and now when he takes to the cage, he admits it that his primal ‘fight or flight’ urges are still active. It recalls similar feelings to the days of real potential harm, even though he is now participating in safely-regulated combat competition.
“I cannot focus or control my feelings,” he divulges. The “Papua Badboy” admits that inability to keep his emotions in check contributed to his recent two-fight skid in ONE Championship. The roaring crowds and bright lights overwhelmed the young fighter, and as a result, he could not perform as well as he wished.
As the soon-to-be 24-year-old continues to train and develop as a mixed martial artist, he hopes he can hone his mental skills alongside the physical, despite it being difficult right now.
However, he knows if he were to overcome his nerves and make a name for himself in Indonesia’s mixed martial arts scene, he would have a real chance to make a difference in people’s lives.
After all, his ultimate goal is to become a beacon of hope for others who have suffered through similar circumstances, and spread positivity by bringing Indonesians together through sporting achievement. Matheis wants to pave the way for others, showing combat does not have to be divisive, but can also unite.
“I proud that I came from East Indonesia,” he says. “I want to do my best so that others can see they can follow me, too.”