Stefer Rahardian used to talk about wanting to be Indonesia’s first martial arts world champion, but he has been quiet about that as of late.
Instead, as the country’s most successful homegrown athlete notches up each victory, he has lowered his gaze from the summit to the path ahead.
“I need to be good,” he says. “I just need to keep training hard with my team. My opponents are tough.”
Rahardian, the 2016 ONE Flyweight Indonesian Tournament Champion, is turning to his trademark humility to tune out the noise outside the cage. He readies for his next bout against Pakistan’s Muhammad “The Spider” Imran at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, live on Saturday, 20 January, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
Seven career wins — five of them under the ONE banner — and zero losses are adding up to some fame away from the gym and the cage. He is starting to get recognized on the street. However, the undefeated 31-year-old is determined to avoid the distractions.
“I never thought about being a sort of celebrity. I still think that I am an ordinary guy,” he says. The truth, however, is that he is quite extraordinary.
For example, his last victory in Jakarta at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY this past September was spectacular. Going into that bout, Rahardian says his mission was to be on the offensive, and he accomplished that rather quickly.
The Indonesian was comprehensively in control of his opponent, Cambodian Top Team’s Sim Bunsrun, from the start. Rahardian closed in, secured the kun khmer stylist in a tight body lock, and threw him to the ground. A series of blows from his full mount sent Bunsrun scrambling, which allowed the local favorite to take his back.
Leveraging off years of jiu-jitsu and grappling, Rahardian was all over his opponent like a python, eventually working into a rear-naked choke. When Bunsrun tapped out after 67 seconds, the Jakarta native chalked up his second fastest victory since turning professional.
Even that was not good enough.
“I needed to be more aggressive,” Rahardian says, recalling his training for the September bout. “I worked on my striking. This is martial arts, you need to use everything — striking, grappling, wrestling.”
For his upcoming bout with Imran, he is expecting the action to hit the cage floor relatively quickly. That is because the 26-year-old from Gujar Khan, Pakistan, is known for his grappling expertise.
“Imran is good at grappling,” Rahardian warns. “He is good on the ground. That is where he wins, and if you get sloppy, anything can happen.”
With another impressive showing, the Indonesian hero could find himself breaking through the upper echelon of ONE’s stacked flyweight division, which the likes of Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, Danny Kingad, Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov, Reece “Lightning” McLaren, and ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes.
Another dominant victory will also add to his celebrity, but again, that does not concern Rahardian. However, he does want to use his newfound fame to spread the word about the power and beauty of martial arts.
If he were to do that, then that would be another mission accomplished.
“I am happy people recognize my matches,” he says. “My goal is to inspire other Indonesians to join martial arts and train. I am very grateful and blessed.”