Indian national wushu champion Himanshu Kaushik is ready to make his grand premiere in ONE Championship, and like every motivated athlete, he expects to be victorious.
The 25-year-old strawweight has a tough test in his promotional debut, as he is slated to face unbeaten contender Stefer Rahardian (8-0) in his stomping grounds of Jakarta, Indonesia, at ONE: GRIT & GLORY on Saturday, 12 May.
There is no doubt the crowd inside the Jakarta Convention Center will be behind their local hero, but Kaushik is confident he can win. In fact, he expects his hand to be raised, and make his mark in the strawweight division.
Before he enters the ONE cage, here is what you need to know about him.
A Wild Childhood
Growing up in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, the young Kaushik was full of energy. Like millions of other Indians, he played cricket. Sometimes, he played the sport three or four times a day.
However, he let out some of that energy in the wrong way.
“I was very belligerent during my childhood,” he says. “With my friend, in the school, in the alleys, I used to fight.”
Kaushik’s parents were strict, and punished him for such things, but they supported their son when he found a positive outlet for the fire he had.
“I did not find much interest in studies, and there was no chance of me becoming a doctor or an engineer,” he adds. “So, that is why I chose martial arts.”
Karate Changed The Course Of His Life
While he was still a young child, Kaushik discovered his lifelong passion. After growing up with no knowledge of any martial arts disciplines, he was introduced to karate at school.
“When I started karate, I was 8 or 9 years old,” he explains.
“Then, when I started getting a little [more] serious in life, I started liking it, and I realized that there is a future in this as well. I pursued karate for five or six years, and also became the national champion.”
Around that time, he was also inspired by martial arts icons on the silver screen who influenced millions of others around the world.
“I also used to watch martial arts movies a lot,” he continues. “I was inspired by Bruce Lee, so this is also a reason I entered into martial arts.”
Achieving Wushu Glory
Despite becoming skilled in his first discipline, Kaushik left it behind.
Without government support for karatekas, there was not much hope of it becoming his full-time profession. He preferred the full-contact competition of wushu, and once he started to excel at that sport, he saw a way to compete as a professional.
“I like wushu because it has punches, kicks, throws, and the counter combinations. It is amazing,” he explains.
“For the first time in India, a professional tournament was held. Some people from our gym had also gone there to participate, and they won. When I used to practice with them, I used to defeat them, so I realized I could also go there and participate, and win.”
After starting in 2007, he developed into a seven-time national champion in the discipline across three weight classes.
Family Support Powers His Dream
Through wushu, Kaushik honed his skills with the intention of transferring them to mixed martial arts competition. Once India’s professional organizations launched, he knew he could succeed in them.
Debuting in 2013, he built a solid professional record. He tasted victory four times, and only experienced a single blemish over the past five years.
Kaushik admits none of his success would have been possible without the support of his family, who helped him in whatever way they could.
“My family has been very supportive since the beginning,” he explains. “Sometimes my father used to get powdered almonds and kept my diet ready, and my mother used to keep my juice ready.
“I did not have to do anything — just come, follow my diet, and sleep. Nobody ever disturbed me, as everyone was aware that I was working hard. I had that kind of support from my family, and it is still there, and will be here in the future.”
ONE Saved Him From Heartbreak
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Outside of martial arts, Kaushik’s dream was to join the Indian Air Force. However, twice he was unable to secure a position through its wushu trials.
It was a heavy blow, which caused him to re-evaluate his career.
“I really got heartbroken,” he admits. “After that, I left wushu as well, since my dream had [been] broken. I left everything.”
Salvation was around the corner, though. He was given a chance to compete among the world’s greatest martial artists in ONE, and his passion returned.
“I got a ray of hope that I can do something big, and I can go even beyond the Indian Air Force dream,” he says.
Now with his motivation restored, Kaushik is prepared for his toughest assignment yet at ONE: GRIT & GLORY.
“Stefer Rahardian has been in ONE Championship for quite a long time, and he is still undefeated,” the Indian says. “He has wrestling skills, [and] his ground game is top notch. I am ready for that, and I know how I will compete against him.”