Stefer Rahardian is a man with a lot on his mind.
On the one hand, things are good for the 31-year-old Indonesian grappling sensation. He and his teammates from Bali MMA just shot their first television commercial, he is emerging as the brightest martial arts superstar in all of Indonesia, and he is on the verge of a ONE Flyweight World Title shot.
However, the grind of daily training, both in his hometown of Jakarta and in Bali, may be taking a personal toll.
Rahardian lives with his mother, Margaretha, in their East Jakarta house when he is training locally at Jakarta Muay Thai & MMA, and he worries about her. After all, she is getting older, and is alone at home quite often. There are a lot of stairs on the way to her bedroom, and she has been experiencing more pain in her knees in recent years.
“There can be trouble, so I am worried about that,” the tender-hearted warrior admits. “Sometimes I am not at home. Every day, I am training, and I’m thinking about her.”
These comments reflect the realities for many young men in Asia. The duty to care for parents often falls to the eldest son, and in this case, that means Rahardian, as his older brother tragically passed away from illness while he was a boy.
Now, as the flyweight sensation carries the hopes of Indonesian martial arts on his shoulders, he is careful not to forget his family.
“I am always thinking about how I can make my mom happy. She tells me I am doing lots of big things for her, but I still think I need to do more,” he continues.
Rahardian’s mother has sacrificed an incredible amount to get the young star to where he is today.
After his parents divorced when he was just 10 years old, it was Margaretha who raised the young flyweight and his siblings single-handedly. She insisted Rahardian attend a school where she felt the education was better, despite the frequent bullying Rahardian had to endure while there.
To ensure her family had everything it needed to survive and more, she waited tables in a Japanese restaurant in Jakarta’s business district. She then scraped together enough money to buy a small house in the East Jakarta district of Mataram – a once rough neighborhood where drugs and thugs ruled.
“My mother was really, really important to me growing up,” Rahardian recalls. “She gave me everything when I was a kid: school and shelter. She worked really, really hard to buy a house.”
The neighborhood has been cleaned up since then. It is now a pleasant place of narrow alleyways. Neighbors chat on doorsteps, and children call out to foreign visitors as they walk by, and often refer to the grappling sensation as “Eppen.”
Now, Rahardian is focusing on how to give back. The young Indonesian has been plowing much of his bout earnings into house renovations, but there’s still much work to be done.
It is a tricky balancing act. Extensive gym sessions leave little time for home improvements, while cash is split between his family and his own needs.
“I am busy with preparation for training,” he explains. “I cannot spare a lot of money. I have to eat properly and buy supplements.”
While the road is difficult, the journey is made easier by the love and support he gets from two main sources, for which Rahardian is eternally grateful. The first is his family. The other is his team at Bali MMA.
The unbeaten warrior credits their support, encouragement, and constructive criticism for his flawless 7-0 record since joining the gym in 2015. This is due to the gym’s ethos of inclusivity and commitment to discipline, and each other.
“They (the team at Bali MMA) treat me like a brother,” he says. “At training, they help you. They push you. They give attention to your mistakes.”
With such a strong foundation on which to build upon, Rahardian has been able to achieve phenomenal success on the global stage with ONE Championship. However, he is not letting it go to his head. His focus is on being the best family member he can be — both at home and at the gym.
“I am just an ordinary guy. I am just an ordinary athlete,” he says, humbly. “I would not be here without them.”