KSW welterweight champion Roberto Soldic says he can feel his opponents’ fear as soon as he lands a clean punch on them.
“Robocop” cemented his status as one of the breakout talents of 2017 with his stoppages of UFC hopeful Lewis Long and then KSW welterweight champion, Borys Mankowski. A spectacular head kick stopped Long in 40 seconds in front of his passionate home support in Newport, Wales. Two months later in Katowice, Poland, Soldic forced Mankowski to retire from their KSW title bout before it entered the championship rounds.
The Croatian hadn’t even celebrated his 23rd birthday by the time he dethroned Mankowski on the champion’s home soil, but he’s made a habit of overcoming the odds throughout his career.
As an adrenaline fueled 15-year-old, Soldic began training in judo. Although his striking has become his calling card of late—he also boasts a 4-0 pro boxing record—he taught himself the fundamentals of the sweet science when he hung a heavy bag in his household at the age of 16. He knew the second he heard his first haymaker crack the leather that he had something formidable to bring to combat sports.
He still remembers his peers’ laughter as he would jog by them in cafes, baffled by his choice of fitness over “drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes”.
At 18, Soldic competed for the first time in MMA, stopping a vastly more experienced prospect, again in front of his home crowd. Taking unenviable challenges became a trend in his career early on, but he thinks his last defeat, seven fights ago in Russia, truly removed any fear of competition he ever had.
“I can fight with anyone in the welterweight division,” Soldic told MMA Fighting.
“I went to fight in Russia against Yaroslav Amosov, a 16-0 guy, when I was just 6-0. He had won world championships in Sambo too. I went to Russia and I did well, against him, but it’s very hard to win on points in Russia. I don’t fight there any more since then.
“After that, I knew I could fight anyone. I was putting pressure on him and I could see that he was scared when I punched him. That’s when I knew I could beat anyone in the world. I don’t have fear of anything. If he can beat me, then beat me. I don’t give up, I go until the end and so far nobody has been able to stop me.”
His back-to-back wins with Cage Warriors and KSW have made him one of the most talked-about up-and-comers on the continent. The Polish promotion has even struck a deal with a national TV broadcaster in Croatia to satisfy his home fan base.
In Croatia, they think they have found the second coming of Mirko Cro Cop, but despite the great respect Soldic has for the Pride legend, he wants to forge his own path in the sport.
“Now, more people talk,” he explained.
“In Poland, now they talk about me. In USA, in England and in my country, in the Balkans and Croatia, I see my name in the papers. They say I am young Cro Cop but I don’t like this; I do like Mirko Cro Cop a lot, but I want to be myself.
“I have never looked at a fight and said, ‘Hey, I want to be like this guy.’ I want to make my own style based on what is good for me. I am a complete MMA fighter.”
In the same way that his need to get rid of excess energy led to him taking up judo as a teenager, Soldic says he can’t stop working no matter how successful he becomes.
“Everybody saying that I’m special now, but I still work hard. I believe in hard work more than anything. I don’t think this has come from the sky or from God, I know how hard it is to be on this level. I will never stop working hard,” he stated.
“I want fighting and I want train. And that’s something that I need in my life; I need to train. It wouldn’t matter how much money I have because I will still work because this is in my blood. Since the day I start I have never missed training. I want only fight and to get belts.”
In this day and age, many fighters preoccupy themselves with the image of success and saying the right thing on the microphone, but Soldic’s appeal lies in his ruthless fighting style. He seems completely locked into the moment, snarling as he delivers his potent strikes in the direction of his prey.
It can also lead to problems like when he stopped Long, but failed to see referee Rich Mitchell checking on the downed opponent after he folded him with a powerful head kick. “Robocop” landed a single shot when the fight had already been brought to a close.
“I hit him so hard that I turned. He dropped, and because I was looking up when I spun around I did not see the referee. This is fight and there is too much adrenaline,” Soldic remembered.
“The punch was not good, but sometimes the referee doesn’t come to stop it in other fights. Also, fighters can recover. I don’t give my opponent that time. I need to finish him. The referee is there to stop the fight. He was there, but I did not see him for one millisecond.
“Straight after it apologized to Lew Long. I could see people saying that this should be a disqualification. They wanted to take my win, but look what happened. Check my record, it says it’s a win on Sherdog.”
Soldic is aware of the intimidating presence he brings to the cage, but he thinks these things go hand in hand with MMA.
“People say to me, ‘You destroy everybody!’ — but I just think that’s what I must do because this is MMA. But I have seen the fear in many of my opponents’ eyes. After they feel my punch, they don’t want fight with me.”
The fact that two-weight EFC champion, Dricus Du Plessis, has been saying that Soldic is afraid of him has struck a chord ahead of their clash at KSW 43 this weekend. The welterweight duo had a heated altercation after Soldic claimed victory over Mankowski on 10 days’ notice, but Soldic is sure the South African will change his tune after Saturday night in Wroclaw.
“I need to fight this guy. I signed a contract to fight him in South Africa, but EFC never answered. I asked my manager what happened and they did not give him an answer. And then this guy later said that I was afraid. This guy talks too much,” Soldic said.
“I was sitting in a hotel before my last fight and I did not like the way he looked at me. It made things a bit personal. Then before the fight, I hear him say that Mankowski would win by first-round TKO or something like that.
“I can remember Lew Long said he would only need 20 seconds to beat me, look what happened to him. I like to show the people more than tell them. I don’t have fear at the right times. I know he will have fear once he feels my power.”
Soldic still has a lot of unfinished business to attend to with KSW, but he does believe he will compete in the Octagon in the future.
“In the future, maybe UFC because this is No. 1 in the world. I want to fight with the guys who are No. 1, and of course, I want to be No. 1. In the future who knows? Maybe in three years or something because I am still young and I have a lot of time,” he said.
“When I get there, I will stay there. We see fighters go over there and after one or two fights they have to leave. I will build myself up and when I get there I will destroy everybody.”