Undefeated flyweight Stefer Rahardian knows the pressure is on. The Indonesian grappler has a perfect 6-0 professional record, and has to be in tiptop shape if he wants to keep his unblemished streak alive.
By defeating Bunsrun, the local hero will move closer towards achieving his dream of becoming a world champion. As the 30-year-old acknowledges, “if you want to achieve a dream, you have to make it happen and keep working hard.”
Since early August, Rahardian has been training hard for his upcoming clash against Bunsrun at Bali MMA. There, he works on his striking with Muay Thai specialist Matthew Semper, his Brazilian jiu-jitsu with black belt Joao Paulo, and wrestling and strategy with the camp’s head coach Don Carlo-Clauss.
He has been engaged in two to three training sessions per day, which varies between fundamental wrestling, no-gi grappling, striking, as well as strength and conditioning. Of course, he also spars weekly with some of Asia’s top athletes.
“Preparation has been so tough. I have been doing my training program together with my world-class training partners the Leone Brothers, Subba Brothers, Muhammad Aiman, and Riski Umar, who will be competing on the same card as me,” he explains.
“I have learned so many things from them. They have been helping me a lot, and are great partners for me as they have high level techniques and are bigger in size. Through the tough training camp, I still enjoy everything I do and have here. We support each other, because we are a strong family.”
The Jakarta native, who started his martial arts journey with BJJ in 2008, realizes his biggest strength is his submission game. He is a Carlson Gracie brown belt, and flashed that impeccable talent in his promotional debut last August.
He tapped out a pair of competitors via rear-naked choke, each within two minutes on a single night, to capture the ONE Indonesia Flyweight Tournament Championship. However, in the months to follow, he discovered that his boxing was not quite up to par.
“I threw a punch, and my opponents already knew I was throwing it,” he says. “They were anticipating me. I have to work on changing my levels.”
Rahardian and his coaches began noticing it back in January, when he battled Jerome S. Paye at ONE: QUEST FOR POWER in front of his hometown crowd in Jakarta. Though he had been improving, he found it difficult to impose his strategy.
“I was really nervous. I know Jerome (Paye). He is a tough guy,” the Indonesian recalls. “He was bigger than me. He would not engage, and did not want to go for takedowns, but I was controlling him against the cage. I dropped him once though.”
After three hard rounds, Rahardian earned a unanimous decision victory, and subsequently, a step up in competition.
The Indonesian returned to the cage three months later to battle Filipino knockout artist Eugene Toquero at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in his rival’s stomping grounds of Manila, the first time he was competing outside of Jakarta.
Unfazed by Toquero’s elite striking ability and his home court advantage, Rahardian was in control for most of that contest, planting the 36-year-old on his back time and time again. Just like his last bout, all three judges sided with Rahardian.
“I was working so hard on my striking,” he remembers. “My game plan was to stay aggressive. I dominated him, but I did not want to get into his range. He has a dangerous flying knee.
“The most important thing I learned was that I have to be more aggressive, I have to improve my pace, and look for the finish. I cannot be easily satisfied with just winning.
“I need to keep moving forward, I need to improve, and I need to fix my weaknesses, technically and mentally. I believe there are greater and more complete opponents in the future.”
Rahardian will attempt to use the knowledge he has gained in his upcoming bout against Bunsrun, a 24-year-old Khun Khmer specialist with an ever-evolving grappling game. Ever since debuting in ONE Championship in December 2015, the Cambodian Top Team has won three consecutive matches.
Despite Bunsrun’s current win streak, Rahardian is not content with just winning. He is determined to learn from the past, display some more aggressiveness, and getting a decisive finish.
“I never underestimate my opponents. I always take them seriously,” Rahardian says. “This match will be exciting, as we can show a classic match between a striker and a grappler. This time, I hope to finish him by submission, or even TKO.”