MMA in Indonesia has a long history, perhaps more so than any other country in South East Asia with the possible exception of the Philippines. There have been well over 50 MMA events held there in the last ten years but this figure does not tell the entire story.
TPIFC was the Indonesian equivalent of the URCC and put on televised cards almost every other month but unfortunately concerns about the brutality of the sport led to its demise in 2004 leaving a vacuum which has never satisfactorily been filled.
Despite the lack of competitive opportunities Indonesian fighters have continued to practise the elements of MMA, in particular BJJ which black belt Niko Han has done much to develop with his chain of Synergy schools.
The most successful fighter in the country, Fransino Tirta, has only fought four times in the last seven years despite having a world class record. However opportunities are starting to arise with ONE FC, Asia's most prestigious MMA promotion, electing to hold its second ever card in Indonesia in a show which was witnessed by 4,500 people and featured a handful of homegrown fighters.
Legend FC looked to capitalize on this momentum by putting on a card of their own in Jakarta in March but things did not go according to plan and it was moved to Hong Kong at the last minute. At least there are now international organizations taking an interest in Indonesian fighters which gives aspiring mixed martial artists an incentive to train that they might not have had in the past.
Leading the way is 24 year old Leo Krishna, a BJJ blue belt who is a veteran of numerous grappling competitions and has a perfect MMA record both at an amateur and professional level, with all his wins coming by way of submission.
He trains alongside Tirta at Synergy Jiu Jitsu and is hoping to make his international debut for ONE FC later this year,
"I used to only train BJJ and MMA just for a hobby, I never thought that I would get offer from ONE FC to become one the professional fighter but to become a successful professional MMA fighter I need to change everything to the whole different level."
This process is already underway and Krishna proved his potential by submitting three separate opponents to win the Syena MMA Welterweight Championship last year. Although the event was on a very small scale he showed the type of potential which could make him a future star of Indonesian MMA and you can see the final below:
Syena MMA Welterweight Championship June 11, 2011 (via fightentiger)
"I was very happy to win and I think that winning the SYENA MMA is a good way to start my MMA career. It's difficult for Indonesian MMA fighters because you can't improve more if you just training and sparring with your training partner you need to fight regularly so you have more experience and are ready to fight in the bigger event when you will be against a better opponent."
Krishna got to witness first hand a big event when he was cageside for ONE FC ' Battle of Heroes' at the BritAma Arena in Jakarta.
"I was there to watch the show live, it was spectacular and I think events like this will also boost the spirit of Indonesian fighters to have a successful career in MMA and there will be more successful Indonesian fighters."
Although so far he has only had a handful of actual fights Krishna is constantly training and improving and preparing himself for the moment he gets a chance to make his ONE FC debut,
"I start learning Aikido when I was 5 years old with my Father as my Sensei. I learn martial arts because I want to but maybe it's in my blood! Now I train six days a week and two or three times a day. with my students and my coach Fransino Tirta."
The Syena MMA Championship took place almost a year ago and Krishna, who could have improved considerably since then, will have benefited from the experience of fighting three times in just over a month with the qualifier an amateur fight and the semi final and final both under full pro rules.
Krishna wants to drop down to 155 lbs and on the basis of his performances last year he looks more than ready to try his luck in ONE FC's lightweight division but he prefers to take a patient approach,
"I was very happy to get the One FC contract but I also have a little bit of pressure because my life style and my training programs must change and become very serious. I need to train like a pro, it's not just a hobby anymore and I won't fight until my coaches (Fransino Tirta and Niko Han) think I'm ready, maybe end of this year or next year."
MMA is growing at a phenomenal rate in Asia and much of this impetus can be attributed to the rapid growth of ONE FC which has formed a network of numerous camps and promotions including Krishna's camp, Synergy Jiu Jitsu.
New events, camps and websites seem to be springing up almost every week but with so much excitement surrounding Asian MMA some fighters are rushing to grab the sort of opportunities which weren't around 12 months ago.
In a sport which puts so much emphasis on maintaining a positive record this can be counter productive and it is good to see Krishna and his team taking a more patient approach. As the cream of the current crop of young Indonesian mixed martial artists he looks set for a long and prosperous professional career in MMA and with every passing month he becomes a more dangerous fighter.
In the past great Indonesian fighters have somehow slipped under the radar unable to achieve international exposure or earn enough to make a living out of MMA. Slowly but surely that situation is changing and Krishna could be one of the first young fighters to capitalize.