Stefer Rahardian has experienced a lot of changes over the past few years.
The 31-year-old has seen martial arts grow exponentially in Indonesia, and he has become the most popular martial artist in his country. Now, he is moving down to the strawweight division, where the unbeaten competitor hopes to continue his success.
Despite his newfound fame and flawless 8-0 record, Rahardian, who splits his training between Bali MMA and Jakarta Muay Thai & MMA, remains as humble as he has ever been. In this exclusive interview, he talks about the rise of mixed martial arts in his nation, his move to strawweight, and much more.
ONE Championship: Martial arts has grown exponentially in Indonesia. Are you encouraged by the sport’s growth?
Stefer Rahardian: Yeah, especially when [I think about] not fighting anymore. You want to open a place like Bali MMA. It is on my mind. I am really surprised at how popular it has become. From the bottom of my heart, I am happy.
In 2008, or 2009, when I was starting, there might be a grappling tournament, and you would win maybe Rp200,000 (USD$15), or something like that. If you lost, then you got nothing.
ONE: Did you ever imagine it would grow like this?
SR: When I was really tired from training, sometimes I would daydream that someday, someone would set up something great for Jakarta, or Indonesia [as a whole]. Maybe some big organization would come in here and give the talent some opportunities. Maybe some American guy would come in here, and build a big gym like this.
ONE: You are starting to get a little bit of celebrity status – you have a commercial out. How does it feel when you see it?
SR: I am a little embarrassed, but I am proud of it. It is great to have my team in it. People are starting to recognize me now.
ONE: Are you comfortable with having a public profile?
SR: Sure I am. As long as everyone talks to me nicely, then I am happy. If the Internet writes that I am a nice person, then I am happy. I do not make trouble, so I do not have any trolls.
ONE: Do you have a response for when someone recognizes you?
SR: When that happens, you always have to be nice. Not because I have a profile now, but I remember when I had nothing. I had to be nice when I had nothing, so I have to be nice now.
ONE: You talk about Bali MMA a lot. What makes them a good team?
SR: They treat us like family. We are like brothers. When anyone has a fight, we support each other. No matter where you come from, when you step into Bali MMA, you are part of a family.
ONE: Let’s talk about your last bout with Muhammad Imran in January, which you won by decision. What did you learn from that victory?
SR: I learned a lot. I need to be prepared for everything. I won by decision, but I do not want that to happen again. I decided, next time, I want to finish. Every time I finish a fight, I think about what happened in the fight. I always think that I have to go back to the drawing board.
ONE: Why are you moving down to strawweight when you are unbeaten at flyweight?
SR: My weight is already going down. I cannot eat anymore. 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 in strawweight.
ONE: You will be making your strawweight debut against Himanshu Kaushik. What are your thoughts on him?
SR: He is a good striker. I know about him. He has had something like 70 wins [in wushu competition], but this is mixed martial arts. You have to focus on everything. I am relying on my team to suggest good strategies.
ONE: What are your thoughts on some of the athletes in the strawweight division, like Alex Silva?
SR: All the fighters are really good. Before I stepped into ONE Championship, I was watching him. I thought, this man was good. His jiu-jitsu is legit. [Yoshitaka] Naito is good, but I am amazed with Silva, because he can do submissions in almost any way.
ONE: What will it take for you to get the ONE Strawweight World Title?
SR: For the world title, it is about getting better in all aspects. I am trying to get better in every way. We are still waiting for good fights, so for now, I just want to get better and better.