Stefer Rahardian (8-0) will look a little bit lighter when he makes his return to the cage this Saturday, 12 May.
The undefeated Indonesian hero is officially moving down from the flyweight division to clash with Indian wushu specialist Himanshu Kaushik. His strawweight debut is scheduled as the co-main event of ONE: GRIT & GLORY, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
Rahardian was a naturally smaller athlete than many of his previous opponents, so when his body began shedding weight due to a more intense training regime, he decided to roll with it.
“My weight is already going down. I cannot eat anymore,” the 31-year-old Jakarta native says.
“You need to maintain your condition and your weight. I try to maintain my weight, but it wants to go down. I am small, so my coach asked me [if I wanted to move down], and now we are looking for good opportunities at strawweight.”
The last time Rahardian appeared inside the cage was in January, when he faced Pakistan’s Muhammad “The Spider” Imran at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE. Throughout three rounds, the Bali MMA product demolished Imran with his world-class grappling ability.
Rahardian’s strategy was to utilize his evolving stand-up game to set up the takedown, and then look for opportunities to get submissions, or launch ground strikes.
By the time the contest entered the third frame, however, he was growing exhausted. He knew he would be unable to get the stoppage victory he desired. Ultimately, he earned a unanimous decision win, but he was not satisfied.
“When we went to the third round, we were already tired,” he admits.
“My plan was to stay on top of him, and keep punching him with ground and pound. That fight was crazy. I cannot describe in words how tired we were. It was motivation to never let that happen again.”
To ensure he does not run out of energy again, Rahardian has committed to a more intense training regime.
His begins his week with Bali MMA’s competition team with sparring at 9am. Each round goes five minutes, and everyone goes for three rounds per partner. In the afternoon, head coach Don Carlo-Clauss introduces weights to help them improve their strength and conditioning.
The following morning, the day begins with an 8km run with his teammate, fellow Indonesian strawweight Riski “King Kong” Umar, before Muay Thai work kicks off at 9am, and then team training at noon.
Rahardian maintains that schedule throughout the week. While his frequency of training has not significantly increased, the Jakarta native has been going harder and harder with each session, and expects his efforts to help him maintain his intensity for the full 15 minutes against his Indian adversary this coming Saturday.
Kaushik, a 25-year-old hailing from Delhi, India, is a seven-time national wushu champion who boasts an incredible 71-7 record in the discipline. He brought those skills to mixed martial arts competition in 2013. He enjoyed a bright start to his career in the cage, achieving four consecutive wins.
Although Kaushik does not have as much experience as his Indonesian counterpart, Rahardian is not taking him lightly.
“Every time I fight, ever since I started in local fights in Jakarta, I tell myself, ‘Alright, do not underestimate your opponent,’” the Bali MMA product says. “I need to keep training hard. No matter what, I have to give 100 percent.”
This bout in front of a hometown crowd in Jakarta, gives Rahardian the opportunity to make a statement. He is making his debut in his new weight class just moments before the men who occupy the top echelons of the division, as ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex Silva takes on former titleholder Yoshitaka Naito in the main event.
If Rahardian hopes to compete with the top talents in the division, he must get through Kaushik first. And, if he gets the finish he is looking for, he will give them something worth thinking about after the dust settles on Saturday night.