The 27-year-old Croatian – who will debut against unbeaten Russian Murad Ramazanov in a welterweight MMA bout at ONE on Prime Video 5 on December 2 – has used his difficult experiences to forge an unbreakable will.
Now, Soldic has the chance to showcase that warrior spirit in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Before the former two-division KSW Champion enters the Circle for the first time, find out how he made it from a war-torn childhood to the pinnacle of combat sports.
‘Thank God That My Family Lived’
Soldic was born in the small town of Vitez in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, while the Bosnian War still raged.
Although he was too young to have any memory of it, his father – a mechanic by trade – was forced to fight, and his older siblings remember the horrors that the conflict brought.
“I was born almost as the war was finished, but I was born in war. Like every war, it was very hard, a very tough life, and a very poor situation. Thank God that my family lived.
“[I don’t remember the war], but my brother and sister can. They know that they always ran from the rockets. This trauma 100 percent stayed, but I didn’t have any fear. In Bosnia people are a little bit wild, they don’t have fear. They survived the frontline.”
Once the war ended, the young “Robocop” enjoyed a normal upbringing, but he did run into some issues.
Above all, he had endless energy and nothing to channel it toward, which resulted in him being expelled from school.
“I had a good childhood because we used to play outside, not like today with the phones and everything. I was always a hyperactive kid. I was always on the street playing football.
“They kicked me out from the school two times because I was really hyperactive, and I didn’t have patience for sitting for six hours a day. It really was hard for me. I always needed to move, and I was a little bit problematic.”
MMA The Hard Way
Soldic needed an outlet, and he wanted something more productive than what he saw around him. His peers would hang out, smoke, and drink – but he had a different vision.
After watching the likes of Croatian hero Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Georges St-Pierre compete, he decided he wanted to be a professional fighter, even if there were no gyms around him to support that dream.
The youngster began with judo, which was the only martial art being taught in his town. But then at 16, he met a local fighter who took him under his wing.
“My friend Ivo [Skopljak] started first, and then we followed him. He was a security guard on the doors in the club, and I said to him, ‘I want to train with you.’ He was a heavyweight. I was like 70 kilos (154 pounds).
“Ivo said, ‘I have a small gym at home, come to me, hit the pads.’ And when I started to hit pads, I saw this was for me from day one. I just loved it. I tried to do judo to put into mixed martial arts, I hit the bag, and then did strength and conditioning. It was just old school.”
Despite those humble beginnings, Soldic made quick progress, and he was offered his first fight at 19.
Even without a coach or any proper training partners, he decided to accept. It wasn’t like the fight camps he knows today, but he gave it every bit of his effort, and it paid off in a big way.
Looking back at that first bout, “Robocop” said:
“I said, ‘Give me six months. I will be ready.’ I followed YouTube a little bit. I was without coaches, without anything. I just followed the rules on what to do every day – train two times a day, do pads, judo, strength and conditioning, ground-and-pound, this kind of stuff.
“I went in the cage before I’d ever done any sparring before. The guy was very dangerous. He was good on the ground and he took me down. The first round we did some grappling. I didn’t give up.
“And then the second round he tried to take me down. I escaped and went to ground-and-pound him. I caught him with a left hand in the head and I saw that I hurt him. I continued the ground-and-pound, then the referee stopped the fight and my career started.”
Moving Countries With Nothing
After going on a successful run in his homeland, Soldic met his current coach and manager, Ivan Dijakovic.
Dijakovic invited the Croatian athlete to live and train in Germany at UFD Gym, which he had founded with his brother, Tomi.
While he didn’t know the language and was relying on people he barely knew, Soldic had nothing to lose and moved to a new nation with the mindset of going all in.
“I came in March 2015. He showed me the apartment in the gym. It was one room, no bed, very dirty. It was very hard, cold food, no toilet, no kitchen,” he reveals.
Roberto Soldic recalls his early days in Dusseldorf, Germany
While he started on the bottom rung of the ladder, “Robocop’s” grit and determination helped him edge his way up.
Meanwhile, the Dijakovic brothers continued to push their talented fighter forward in his career – and together, they became a formidable team.
“Every time Ivan found me a fight, he always gave me better guys than me, always positive records. He pushed me in the fire.
“I took the risk. Sometimes, of course, I got beat up in training, but I kept going. I knew that I would make something [of myself]. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I just knew how to fight.”
Pushing Himself To The Top
Soldic went on to achieve massive success on the European circuit, winning multiple titles along the way, including the KSW welterweight and middleweight belts.
On a seven-fight winning streak with six KOs, the Croatian sensation fielded offers from all of the biggest MMA organizations around the world, but he felt like ONE was the best platform to realize his dreams.
“Many offers came to me after the end of my KSW contract. I flew to Singapore and I saw something different – good energy and how they respect the guys and care about fighters,” he says.
“Chatri [Sityodtong, ONE Chairman and CEO] flew to Zagreb and did a press conference. We had a very good talk, and I could not say no because the contract was very good for me.
“They said that I can do every combat sport like kickboxing and Muay Thai, which I also wish to do, but for now I focus on MMA.”
With the world’s largest martial arts organization supporting him, Soldic wants to motivate his compatriots in Croatia and Bosnia by showing them that you can go from nothing to the very top.
He plans to be the catalyst for ONE to head to Europe, where he can fight in front of his people and inspire them as he goes for the World Title.
“I want to create my own legacy. This is now the world stage for me, and something new for me that has motivated me for training.
“Chatri gave me a lot of respect. He was in the arena [in Zagreb] and said, ‘I’m going to do ONE Championship here with you,’ and this was also something special.
“To bring ONE Championship to Zagreb, that is a big, big move for me, and also for my people in my country – in Croatia and in Bosnia.”