Radeem Rahman has faced many challenges that could have ended his martial arts career, but he has always found the strength to push forward.
The Singaporean mixed martial arts pioneer has suffered serious injuries and had to sacrifice training to put his family first, but he has never given up on his passion and is determined to show what he can do on the global stage.
By His Father’s Side
Rahman had a happy childhood growing up in Singapore as the eldest of four children. His father, Abdul, was the sole breadwinner who provided for the household as a warehouse manager.
Abdul was also a combat sports enthusiast, who often encouraged his son to watch Muay Thai and boxing with him on television, but he admits he had no interest in martial arts back then.
“I didn’t understand or like it at first. Every time I tried to run away he would pull me back over,” Rahman laughs.
“I couldn’t even play my video games because he was always watching television.”
After a while, however, Muay Thai began to grow on Rahman and every bout he watched with his dad further stoked Rahman’s love and curiosity for “the art of eight limbs.”
“As a young boy I was amazed to see their pad work – how they would throw their kicks and elbows,” the 32-year-old says.
“Then when I started watching the fights with my dad, I realized how it all linked back to their training.”
Abdul wanted his son to have practical experience with martial arts and enrolled Rahman into taekwondo when he was 10, but it was not long before he yearned to try a full-contact discipline for self-defense.
Mixing Martial Arts
By the time he was 15, Rahman had switched his focus to boxing at the Farrer Park gym.
“Back then, that was the one gym where all the national boxers used to train and there was no better place to be if you wanted to learn boxing,” he says.
Rahman was one of the youngest members among the fraternity of veteran athletes, and that made for some tough sparring sessions.
His mother was worried about his wellbeing, but his father could sense his son’s interest and aptitude for martial arts, so he continued to support and encourage him.
“I was just a kid going up against these older experienced boxers in sparring,” Rahman says
“I remembered coming home and my mom would remark, ‘Radeem, you have bruises on your eyes and body, this isn’t good for you.’ My dad, before every training session, he would remind me, ‘There is always someone better than you, never get carried away and keep working.’”
That advice quickly became the Singaporean’s mantra and it motivated him as he moved to explore other disciplines. After he competed in BJJ and Muay Thai competitions, he turned his attention to mixed martial arts.
A Change In Focus
Rahman joined the prestigious Evolve team in 2009 – shortly after its foundation and the culmination of his national service. He was a quick learner, and studied under the instruction of its collection of Muay Thai, BJJ, and boxing World Champions.
He soon started teaching at the world-famous gym. His hard work gave him the opportunity to become one of the pioneers of Singaporean mixed martial arts as the first man from his nation to compete in ONE Championship on its very first show in 2011.
Just as things seemed to be going well, Rahman suffered a serious knee injury in training that put him out of action for a year. It was also during this time when his father Abdul first started to experience health complications.
“My dad passed out when he was walking with us and it became very dangerous. He couldn’t continue with his job because of that,” Rahman says.
The sudden loss of income hit the family hard, so Rahman’s mother started work to help pay her husband’s medical bills, while her eldest son took on side jobs to help with his siblings’ school fees.
Though he returned to the Circle to compete twice in 2014 after lengthy rehabilitation, Rahman was forced to leave Evolve to better care for his father.
Back In Action
Rahman was determined to continue with his martial arts career, but it was put on hold once again when he suffered another catastrophic knee injury during a BJJ tournament.
After another year and a half of rehabilitation, he found a new gym – Neue Fit, just a stone’s throw from the Singapore Indoor Stadium – where a lighter workload gave him more time to care for his family. However, his father encouraged him to get back in the Circle, too.
Rahman returned in style with a 79-second submission of Tang De Pan in the first of two bouts during 2018. Though he took time out around the birth of his daughter last year, he started to hit top gear in training toward the end of 2019, but his father was hospitalized again after suffering a stroke.
That could have put the brakes on the 32-year-old’s career once more, but Abdul encouraged his son.
“My dad was always the first one, even before I started competing professionally, to have my back,” Rahman says.
“When he was healthy, he was there supporting me and watching all my fights. He would tell me, ‘Don’t worry about the family, we are okay, just go out there and do your best.’”
After making it through some tough times, the 32-year-old from Singapore has promised his father he will win in his honor to thank him for inspiring him to never give up.
“I told my dad, ‘You raised a warrior, don’t worry, I’m used to hardship and you raised me to be mentally tough, so I’m prepared,’” he says.
“It is always exciting to be competing again, but this time, I’m really determined to win. My father was the person who influenced me the most and I’m going to make him really proud.”