Fransino Tirta hopes that signing with ONE FC will put an end to almost three years of bitter frustration. He has not fought since July 2011 and while many far less experienced and successful fighters have been making a name for themselves in Asian MMA the undefeated Indonesian has been a frustrated spectator.
With a 15-0-1 record, Tirta was one of the most sought after fighters anywhere in the world with numerous organizations astutely recognizing that his signing could be their key to entry into the MMA market in Indonesia, one of the most populous countries on the planet.
Unfortunately, he was locked into a contract with Legend FC, who offered him two fights in three years, one of which he was forced to pull out of with an appendicitis, which meant the interest in him from organizations including the UFC and ONE FC would have to remain unrequited.
The only positive for Tirta is that this chapter in his career is now closed and he can finally say with certainty that he will be back in action before too long.
“There were so many ups and downs in the last three years and I wasn’t sure if I would ever fight again. One time I was really close to sign with the UFC, but then I had legal problems with Legend FC. It was very frustrating,” he said.
The interest from the UFC was ongoing, but when Legend FC folded late last year and Tirta became a free agent, he opted to sign with ONE FC, whose owner had been hoping to recruit the undefeated Indonesian since his organization’s inception.
“Victor (Cui) talked to me three years ago saying he wants me to fight in ONE FC and ever since then we have built a good relationship. I feel I’m more connected with ONE FC and they offered me a better contract, so they appreciate me more. Overall, I think ONE FC is a much better deal for my career,” he said.
Tirta doesn’t know when he will be making his ONE FC debut, but after having fought at featherweight in his most recent fight and being scheduled to challenge for the inaugural Legend FC 145-pound title in 2012 in a bout that never materialized, he will be dropping down to the bantamweight division for the first time.
It’s a decision that definitely constitutes a gamble. Coming back after a three-year hiatus is hard enough, dropping down a division for the first time creates a completely new set of problems, but Tirta is confident he will cope well.
“I’m dropping down to 135 and I’m confident I can make it. I’m always nervous when I’m about to fight, regardless of whether I have not been fighting for awhile or fighting frequently. Fighting is my passion and I take it seriously,” he said.
His 16 fights have all been inside a ring, so ONE FC’s circular cage is something else Tirta will have to get used to, but he doesn’t feel that it will particularly hurt his chances.
“It will be the first time in a cage too, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a major challenge. I used to train in the cage and I actually prefer the cage than the ring,” he said.
Although it is a long time since Tirta last competed in MMA, he has not been entirely away from the sport and has been training and cornering fighters while waiting for his own contractual situation to resolve itself.
He made his pro boxing debut at the end of last year, winning a four-round fight by unanimous decision and was recently awarded a BJJ black belt, an achievement he is particularly proud of.
“It means so much. I never thought I could ever get a BJJ black belt. I used to think of myself as an MMA fighter, which meant I didn’t care whether I ended the fight with knockout or submission, but now that I’m a BJJ black belt I have a tendency to go for submissions. Representing!”
On the one hand, Tirta hasn’t fought much in recent years, but on the other hand, he has never really been away. Constantly coaching, sparring, and training, as well as making weight for his boxing match, he’s been doing all the things you expect a mixed martial artist to do. Everything that is, except fighting.
So it is not as if Tirta is making a comeback after years of inactivity during which he has been piling on pounds that now need to be shed. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to focus exclusively on the frustration he has endured of late without looking at what he has also accomplished up to this point.
Tirta made his debut in 2003 and went on to fight 11 times for the now-defunct Indonesian promotion TPIFC. Only two of those bouts went the distance and they both fell on the same day, as he beat three separate opponents in a single night to win the organization’s Open Weight Grand Prix.
Two years of inactivity were followed by a draw with China’s Dai Shuang Hai, as a grueling 15-minute round at Art of War 8 in Beijing was unable to separate the two undefeated fighters. A couple of month’s later, he stopped Swedish lightweight Andreas Hasselback in Bali, and then had to wait two more years before his next fight in Beijing, a stoppage win over Malik Mawlayi from Afghanistan.
It was two more years before Tirta defeated Chinese featherweight Chengjie Wu in Macau and he has been out of action ever since, but still boasts the strongest record of any fighter in the ONE FC bantamweight division, an amazing statistic when you consider he is now rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bibiano Fernandes, Masakatsu Ueda, Kevin Belingon, and Dae Hwan Kim.
It is without doubt the strongest division on the ONE FC roster and Tirta admits to having no idea whom he will be matched with, or when, but he knows that it will be on the standard of that debut performance rather than his stellar record that fight fans will ultimately judge him.
“ONE FC has lots of great fighters, from the world-class fighters to debut fighters. I’m for sure not a debut fighter, so I guess my first fight in ONE FC will decide where my position in the division is,” he said.
Amassing a 15-0-1 record is a phenomenal achievement and, as if Tirta’s MMA credentials weren’t enough, he also has that BJJ black belt, as well as being undefeated in pro boxing. At 32 years old, he should be approaching his peak and looks like the complete package.
While Tirta’s previous opponents aren’t exactly household names, he has been in with some experienced fighters, but faces a serious step up in competition after signing with ONE FC. At least the frustration of the past three years is behind him and we finally get to find out how the number one mixed martial artist in Indonesia stacks up against some of the best fighters in the world.
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