Tough environment shaped Stefer Rahardian’s drive to be victorious in life

Rising Indonesian flyweight superstar Stefer Rahardian picks his way through the narrow alleys that wind through his central Jakarta neighborhood, where he has lived since the age of five.
 
As local kids shout out his nickname “Eppen,” a sort of abstract play on his first name, neighbors chat on the verandahs of their neat middle class homes as the evening call to prayer wafts overhead.
 
“This used to be a tough neighborhood when I was growing up,” Rahardian shared. “Guys would be drunk on your front door. There were drugs and gangs. There are nice houses here now, and it is safer.”
 
Trouble has had a habit of dogging Rahardian. First, it was with his family. His mother and father split up 20 years ago, in a country where divorce is still taboo. The devastating death of his older brother followed shortly after that.
 
Those incidents were not traumatic enough for Rahardian as every single day he was bullied at school for all 90 cents of his lunch money.
 
Small in stature and a devout Muslim in a Christian school, Rahardian was an easy mark until he decided to stand up for himself.
 
“Day by day, month by month, I came to realize that if I do not fight back, then it would be really difficult for me to go to school here,” he remembered. “In my school, there were so many different guys from the islands of Ambon and Papua. They were big. So I said, ‘Tomorrow, I will fight.’”
 
Rahardian challenged the biggest of the bullies as a short-lived and messy melee ensued, which was eventually broken up by his school teacher..
 
Although Rahardian answered for what he had done, the bullying spell was broken and the thugs never bothered him again.
 
Ironically, it was not that schoolyard tussle that inspired Rahardian to pick up martial arts. It was not until a good friend invited him to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class in 2008 that he was bitten by the martial arts bug.
 
Having an eight-hour job as an office boy, Rahardian would brave the rush hour Jakarta traffic just to train for two hours every day, pouring much of his salary into paying his coach.
 
“My first tournament, I lost. My second one, I lost. But I did not want to give up. I thought I only had to win once. I wanted to know I had not wasted my time,” he recalled. “In the fourth tournament, I came in second. That was when I got addicted to winning medals.”
 
Soon, however, disaster struck as during a training session in 2011, Rahardian’s sparring partner fell awkwardly on his leg, tearing the ACL in his right knee.
 
His dreams, as well as his everyday work, were hung in the balance as his surgery cost more than US$3700.
 
“I needed to fix it, but I did not have the money,” he reminisced grimly.
 
Finding his second chance
Fortunately, Rahardian’s gym lent him the money to be repaid from his earnings when he went back to work.
 
Rahardian initially got the operation done in Surabaya, far from his home in Jakarta, at a reduced cost.
 
Unfortunately, as fate would have it, the surgery was botched. A year into his recovery, a screw used in the procedure popped out, and was floating in his knee.
 
His ill-fated case resulted to more borrowed money as another doctor made surgery on his injured knee, but the most harrowing part of his situation was that many lost faith in him that he could ever get back on the right track to resume his martial arts career.
 
“Nobody wanted to train with me,” he quipped. “They all thought I was all done.”
 
Then luck smiled in the guise of Andrew Leone as in 2013, the future ONE Bantamweight World Championship contender was beefing up his Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu skills at Jakarta Muay Thai & MMA.
 
Rahardian seemed to be a good fit to work with the American. Ever since that day, the two have been training together ever since.
 
“I do not want to disappoint Andrew [Leone], so I give 100 percent,” the Indonesian said. “I think he trusts me.”
 
Evidently, the trust is strong between the duo as Rahardian has followed his friend’s footsteps into the cage and has experienced success as well.
 
Rahardian made his professional debut in 2015, earned some quick victories, and then made the long-awaited jump to ONE Championship.
 
In August 2016, immediately upon arrival, Rahardian submitted a pair of opponents via rear-naked choke in under two minutes to capture the ONE Flyweight Indonesian Tournament Championship.
 
Rahardian continued to grind out some hard-earned victories in the year to follow, but he picked up a marquee win in September 2017 in the co-headliner of ONE: TOTAL VICTORY.
 
At the Jakarta Convention Center, Rahardian masterfully brought Cambodia’s Sim Bunsrun to the canvas and softened him up with punches from the full mount position.
 
When the Cambodian tried to move away from these punches and turned to his side, Rahardian secured a cobra-like rear-naked choke and then forced him to wave the white flag in 67 seconds.
 
Undefeated and now in possession of a flawless 7-0 professional record, Rahardian has the potential to become the biggest Indonesian martial arts hero ever produced.
 
“I just want to keep improving and keep moving forward,” he stated.
 
As he now walks through the narrow alleys of his central Jakarta neighborhood, Rahardian is constantly reminded of everything that he has overcome in his life.
 
“I think it was the main key that opened the door in my mind to think out of the box and be where I am today,” he stressed.
 
Rahardian readies for his next bout as he is scheduled to take on Pakistan’s Muhammad “The Spider” Imran in the co-main event of ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, which takes place at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia on 20 January.
 
With another impressive showing, Rahardian could find himself breaking through the upper echelon of ONE’s stacked flyweight division, which houses the likes of Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, Danny Kingad, Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov, Reece “Lightning” McLaren, and ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes.
 
Rahardian leans on the learning from the forthcoming showdown as it can benefit his maturity as a cage competitor.
 
“I don’t want to rush things. There’s always a right moment. Every match is a lesson. We, as martial arts athletes, gain valuable knowledge every time we train and step into the cage,” he asserted.
 
Riding high on his current success, Rahardian is confident that the ONE Flyweight World Championship belt will be fastened around his waist someday.
 
“I am a martial artist who always wishes to give you the best entertainment and the best show you will ever see inside the cage. I just want to savor each moment. That belt will be mine someday,” he ended.

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Author: Robert Belen

Robert Belen is a long-time combat sports writer for dSource Boxing. An avid sports fan, he knows no fear nor partiality in his reporting. If you have a problem with him, tell it to his face. (We bid you not.) You can follow him on Twitter @robertbelen

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