Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian is hoping to test one of the strawweight division’s best athletes in his return from a long-term injury.
The Indonesian mixed martial artist, who spent the past year on the sidelines due to a knee issue, is eager to resume his career and build off his unanimous decision victory over compatriot Adrian “Papua Badboy” Mattheis.
And when it comes to his dream opponent, “The Lion” wants to lock horns with a cornerstone of the weight class – former ONE Strawweight World Champion and current #2-ranked contender Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito.
“I want to face Naito next,” the 34-year-old Jakarta native says.
“He is one of the fighters in ONE Championship who possessed a spectacular record when he first signed with ONE, and he became the [World] Champion.
“When he was defending his belt, he also achieved an impressive winning streak. Therefore, I would like to fight one of the legends in MMA, especially on the biggest stage [in one of the] biggest organizations, like ONE Championship.”
As Rahardian knows well, Naito brought an undefeated slate and a sterling reputation into the world’s largest martial arts organization.
The Japanese star lived up to the hype in his promotional debut, submitting then-unbeaten titleholder Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke to claim the ONE Strawweight World Championship in May 2016. He then closed out the year by finishing Joshua “The Passion” Pacio five months later.
“Nobita” went on to experience some turbulence, as he dropped the belt to Alex “Little Rock” Silva, immediately regained it from the Brazilian, and then lost it to Pacio.
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Still, he’s maintained his relevance in the division, thanks in large part to his work ethic, phenomenal wrestling, and seemingly endless cardio.
That skill set would present Rahardian with an intriguing challenge, as he is also dedicated to the grind, has gone three hard rounds multiple times, and holds a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Carlson Gracie.
“If asked who has the upper hand [in our matchup], I think that is part of what makes a fight. We do our preparation to perform at our best,” the Indonesian offers.
“I would put my best effort forward, especially when facing a legend [such as Naito]. I will definitely try to be ahead in every aspect, [in] grappling, striking, or wrestling. But again, it has to be done with hard work and extraordinary effort with the team.”
With a strong team of coaches and training partners at Bali MMA, “The Lion” believes he has the tools necessary to spring an upset over Naito.
And though he won’t predict the outcome of such a match, the Jakarta native exudes a quiet confidence and will continue to put in long hours at the gym in order to stay ready for anything.
“Every effort should be accompanied with optimism, but I want to say that I will work hard,” Rahardian says.
“I think I should do the preparation first and put my [best] efforts forward, and then we will see how it goes in the fight.”