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After Surviving Religious Violence, Adrian Matheis Now Seeks To Inspire

May 11, 2017

Even before Adrian “Papua Badboy” Matheis steps into the cage to battle former ONE Strawweight World Champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, he is already engaged in a pitched battle for control.

That battle is not necessarily with an opponent, but himself.

“I get nervous,” the 23-year-old admits. “I cannot focus or control my feelings.”

Maybe with good reason. That inner battle of nerves may have began when Matheis was a small boy growing up in Indonesia in the late 1990s. Back then, his country was going through political turmoil, with religious violence going rampant in various parts of the country.

It was then, living on the Maluku islands, that Matheis saw something no person – let a lone a child – should see. The Matheis family was Christian, and some among the community they lived in were bent on persecuting them simply because of that. 

Staring straight ahead, Matheis blankly recalls how a mob set upon his grandfather. The old man was an amputee after stepping on a landmine. That, however, evoked no pity from the crowd, which took his life.

Young Matheis then remembers his mother springing into action. She scooped up his older sister and the future martial artist, who was no more than 6 years old at the time, and fled. Amazingly, they stayed ahead of the mob, and eventually fled into the jungle. 

The trio later had to find their way to a boat so they could cross to the neighboring island of Papua to be reunited with Matheis’ father.

“It was chaos. We ran from village to village,” Matheis recollects.

Having seen the very worst of human behavior, street fights and delinquency came easily in his teenaged years, says Matheis, who admits to being a “wild child.” However, the “Papua Badboy” has come a long way, and it is all thanks to martial arts.

“For me, martial arts is not just about how to learn to punch and kick someone. I feel martial arts is more about how to control yourself, and manage your emotions and mind. It teaches us to be brave in all situations, as well as disciplined and open-minded. All of this I got after I started martial arts training for the first time,” he explains.

“Martial arts has given much to me. [It has made me] healthier, more powerful, calmer, and closer to my God. Martial arts brought me closer to the church and to my religion, and with martial arts, I can give something to my mother and make her proud of me.”

Having set his life on track through his martial arts training, Matheis is currently enrolled in a polytechnic that specializes in fisheries, and expects to graduate in August. Located on campus, the school’s marine focus inspired the name for the gym he trains at: Tigershark Fighting Academy.

His coach and mentor is none other than ex-ONE Championship welterweight competitor Zuli “The Shark” Silawanto, who is one of Indonesia’s first mixed martial artists and a lecturer at the school.

Matheis will be putting his training to the test again, when he meets Amnuaysirichoke on Friday, 26 May, at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The bout promises to be a steep challenge for the fighter, who is on a two-loss skid. Incidentally, so is Amnuaysirichoke.

The “Papua Badboy” admits he was unnerved by the bright lights and big crowds at his previous contests, first in front of his boisterous countrymen in Jakarta this past January, then again in Bangkok in March. Those defeats were bitter and early.

This time around, he is completely immersed in his training, honing in on his techniques, and improving his conditioning in preparation for the enticing strawweight match-up. What’s more, Matheis is beginning to embrace being a role model for other up-and-coming fighters, especially those with a hard start in life like his.

“I proud that I came from Eastern Indonesia,” the young martial artist declares. “I want to do my best, so that others can see, and they can follow me, too.”

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