Features

Stefer Rahardian Has Found A New Home At Strawweight

May 28, 2018

Stefer Rahardian is finally about to eat.

The 31-year-old Indonesian martial arts hero sits at a table inside his mother’s house in Matraman, East Jakarta. He nibbles on a couple of biscuits from a large bag, and then offers them to a visiting reporter before setting them down on the table untouched.

It is two hours after sundown during Ramadan — a time when Muslims around the world are recovering from a day of fasting. But the few biscuits he munched on has already made the young warrior full.

“My stomach is a lot smaller now. I just cannot eat as much,” says Rahardian, who made a successful debut in the strawweight division earlier this month, following a white-hot run in the flyweight division.

Now a trim 58 kilograms, the Indonesian says competing in the lighter weight class is a better fit for him.

“I am really comfortable,” he adds. “I feel faster. I feel healthy. When they do hydration tests on me before my fight, it is all good.”

On Saturday, 12 May, Rahardian made his strawweight debut against seven-time Indian national wushu champion Himanshu Kaushik at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY, which broadcast live from the Jakarta Convention Center.

Rahardian, a multi-time national grappling champion, knew all about his adversary’s phenomenal stand-up game, and planned to utilize his impeccable grappling to defeat the Delhi, India resident.

“My opponent was a really good striker. He had 71 wins in wushu,” Rahardian says.

“I saw on his video that he is aggressive with the counter takedown. I knew I needed to be careful about that. When I was fighting with him in the cage, I just really wanted to fight. I wanted to improve.”

When Kaushik threw a kick nearly 40 seconds into the contest, the Indonesian saw a prime opening to execute his strategy.

“There was an opportunity, and I did not want to waste it when he attacked,” Rahardian explains.

“He tried to kick, so I grabbed his leg, countered with a straight strike, and then I put him against the cage. That was the game plan, and it worked.”

After driving the Indian back to the cage, Rahardian hit the takedown, eventually transitioned to his rival’s back, and locked in the rear-naked choke to force the tap at the 2:25 mark of the opening stanza. It is his sixth RNC victory since launching his professional career in 2015.

Rahardian credits his technique, as most things, to his team at Bali MMA. Ever since moving to the Indonesian paradise three months ago, he has spent countless hours drilling techniques — including the rear-naked choke — with his teammates in an effort to elevate his game.

“I drill that one all the time with my teammates. That is what’s so good about them,” the strawweight explains.

“At Bali MMA, there are a lot of good grapplers who help me out. We have three black belts in residence, [including] Andrew Leone and Anthony Leone. They are really, really good at that submission. They help so much with positioning and finishing. They teach me so much.”

Despite being based mostly at Bali MMA, Rahardian is back in East Jakarta for Ramadan, a deeply spiritual period for Muslim families. He is taking time off from training to fulfill a promise he made to his mother, Margaretha, which was to spend the fasting month with her.

Although they are spending time together, she is still upset her youngest child has moved so far away. 

“My mom is really sad. Sometimes she cannot hide it,” Rahardian begins.

“She asks: ‘Why did you do that? Why do you need to go to Bali?’ “I explain really carefully, ‘Mom, this is my career. If I want to get better, then I need to train harder.’ I told her it is like school. A long time ago, I needed I study. Well, this is the same. I need to study.

“She understands. She has a good heart. She gave me her blessing. She said, ‘I will always pray for you, but make sure you do not forget to come home.’”

Lately, the leaner and more nimble Rahardian is doing a lot of studying.

In fact, he has taken inspiration from former ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva, who lost his title in the main event of ONE: GRIT AND GLORY to Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito.

Silva, also a BJJ world champion, has mastered “the gentle art” and enhanced his stand-up game, which are a pair of qualities the Indonesian wants to refine in his own skill set.

“When Silva won the belt, he had really improved his striking, so that inspires me to do more,” he says. “[Also], his jiu-jitsu is amazing. He can do submissions from any angle.”

Rahardian is starting to become a little more like his inspiration.

Bali MMA’s striking coach Mike Ikilei is using Rahardian’s natural ability to dodge and evade to hone a unique style, that helps him position the athlete to counter and then execute a takedown.

“He used to dodge and evade a strike, and then just stay away,” Ikilei says.

“Now we want him to evade, reposition, and counter, and that is what we saw in Jakarta this month.”

Just when the Indonesian martial arts hero will have a chance to showcase those new skills is unclear.

Rahardian likes to keep his cards close to the chest when it comes to future plans. Except, that is, when it comes to his mother. A trip to Bali, he says, is in the cards for Margaretha, who will see the island for the first time in her life.

“After Ramadan, I will buy her a ticket,” he reveals. “The basic thing is I need my mom’s blessing. If she does not give it to me, my journey stops.”

Thankfully, Rahardian has received her blessing, and with more dedication at Bali MMA, he will continue his ascension towards the ONE Strawweight World Championship.