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Singapore’s Niko Soe's journey into Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and many accomplished champions from various martial arts backgrounds are bringing their talents to the cage.

However, there is a new breed of athletes emerging who grew up watching the sport and started building their skill set by simultaneously training in multiple disciplines.

One of those athletes is ONE Championship flyweight Niko Soe.

“I would describe him as one of the new generation who started off in mixed martial arts,” said Kok Kwang Koh, who is Soe’s manager and a co-owner of Impact MMA.

“From day one, he has been training jiu-jitsu and striking, and from very early on, he started wrestling and boxing. It’s really hard to say there’s just one base.”

Soe originally started training in the martial arts when he was eight years of age. His mother enrolled him in a silat class, which he did not particularly enjoy.

However, seven years later, he discovered a sport that would change his life.

“My friend introduced me to mixed martial arts. He showed me a video on YouTube of mixed martial arts matches,” Soe explained. 

“I thought, ‘Whoa, it’s quite cool.’ I tried to look it up online, but I doubted if there were any [local gyms] because in Singapore, there weren’t a lot [of people] who knew about mixed martial arts.”

Soe’s search led him to a gym called Fight G, where Bruce Loh — a Singapore mixed martial arts pioneer and former ONE athlete — was teaching.

“Bruce was teaching a class there,” he continued.

“I stood on one side [of the room] for like 90 minutes, and watched what they were doing. I thought it was interesting, so I wanted to come back there again. 

“The next day, I came back and enrolled for a class. Since then, I’ve been all out. I tried not to miss any mixed martial arts classes because I love it so much.”

At first, his family was supportive of his newfound passion. But later, they had a change of heart.

“After a couple of years, I started getting injuries,” he recalled.

“I went home with a cut on my face that needed stitches, I had bruises, and sometimes I was limping when I got home, so they weren’t very supportive of it.

“I said when I get injured, I’m really sad — not because I was injured, but because I wouldn’t be able to train again after that, as I have to rest. I really hated skipping training back then, and I always wanted to come back fast. That’s when they started getting worried.”  

After Loh joined Impact MMA, Soe followed, and it has since become his home. Also, it has become his family, and the 26-year-old is constantly evolving — both on a physical level and a mental level.

“When I come in, I learn something new,” he said.

“The people here have really good attitudes. There’s no arrogance here, and everybody shares their skills and information. Some of my coaches also taught me about life, so that’s why I matured pretty fast as well. They taught me hard work, discipline, and how to be independent.”

With injuries and National Service duties now a thing of the past, the Singaporean flyweight is looking to build on his debut victory from ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016, especially now with the arrival of his idol, Demetrious Johnson, to his division.

As the sport grows in popularity, Kok Kwang believes there will be more athletes like Soe, who will emerge as a “mixed martial artist” right from the start.

“I think it’s the way the sport is going,” he shared.

"Maybe in another 10 years, you’ll have more fighters like this that when you ask them what their base discipline is, it’s going to be ‘mixed martial arts.’”