Niko Soe is a soft-spoken man, but his actions in the cage are anything but quiet.
On Saturday, 29 July, the Singaporean flyweight prospect (3-1) will meet undefeated Indonesian grappler Stefer Rahardian (6-0) at ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS. The event takes place in Surabaya’s GOR Kertajaya Arena in his opponent’s home country of Indonesia.
Like his previous three victories, Soe is expecting to stop his opponent, and give the highly-decorated Rahardian his first, and only, blemish.
“I am always prepared to fight three rounds, but I am also practicing to finish fights,” the 24-year-old states. “I don’t have any preference for how I win. Anything works for me.”
The Singapore-born athlete, who has finished all his victories to date, speaks in very slow and measured tones. And, similar to the feeling of a martial artist entering a cage, he has often found himself alone with just his thoughts.
Although he is the youngest of three children, Soe’s upbringing was closer to that of an only child, as opposed to someone who had to share everything. With his two older sisters getting married and moving out of the house early in his life, the Impact MMA product often had to find his own ways to entertain himself.
“I used to like to play computer games,” he says, reflecting on his childhood. The flyweight took a great liking to WWE Smackdown, and the video game soon had Soe watching his favorite characters on television.
Professional wrestling’s over the top personas had little impact on Soe, however. You will not find him cutting an over-the-top promo after a bout, calling out his next opponent. As he puts it, he “just saw it as entertainment.”
Dazzling crowds, however, was one thing that Soe did borrow from professional wrestling.
“I do what I can to make the match interesting,” he explains. “I will take some risks. It is a fight. You have to be prepared to get knocked out or get submitted. My job is to prevent all that.”
The Singaporean’s foray into martial arts began at the age of 8, initially with silat. Several years later, he was intrigued by mixed martial arts, and made the transition.
While Soe was happy to be learning new things, his road to the cage was rocky at times. His parents have a love-hate relationship with the life of a martial artist that their son has dedicated his life to. They were not fans of martial arts’ physical nature, as Soe often returned home from training sessions with injuries.
For most combat sports athletes, this tends to lead to a stereotypical showdown between the parents and their child’s desires. But no such thing happened with Soe. No ultimatums were given, and ultimately, his family’s resistance was short-lived.
“They had concerns, but they let me do what I liked,” he explains. “I just told them I wanted to. They did not give me any pushback. They just said do what you want. They support me.”
The support from his parents, coupled with the training at Impact MMA propelled Soe to test the waters five years ago with a pair of amateur fights. Two quick wins by TKO were enough to convince the emerging striker to take his skills to the next level.
In 2013, Soe made his professional debut. He clocked a grand total of 44 seconds of cage time, winning by TKO. Following a decision loss, where he decided to compete despite battling a sickness, he was sidelined with a devastating back injury. He was on the shelf for 27 months. Not only was he unable to train, but he was not allowed to participate in any physical activities.
“It was quite frustrating,” he admits. “I had to watch my training partners train, and I could not do anything.”
The Singaporean finally returned in September 2016 with a quick and immaculate armbar victory. He received a call from ONE Championship soon after that, and made his promotional debut at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR two months later. It only took 77 seconds for him to find the armbar and submit Malaysia’s Muhamad Haidar.
Now, eight months removed from his last encounter, the Impact MMA product will get his steepest test yet, against unbeaten Indonesian prospect Stefer Rahardian at ONE: CONQUEST OF KINGS in Surabaya.
Soe is not fazed by the Indonesian’s impeccable ground skills, Carlson Gracie BJJ brown belt, or Rahardian’s ability to grind out a victory over three rounds. He is ready to win the match by any means necessary, regardless if it goes one round or three.
Most importantly, he hopes to give fans more of a show than the 77 seconds of cage time they witnessed the last time. “Hopefully,” he says, “the fight lasts a little longer than the last one.”
Thus far, the soft-spoken man has been practicing what he quietly preaches. He may talk in slow and measured tones, but once the cage door locks, his actions speak loudly.