Stefer Rahardian was scheduled to make his ONE Championship debut in 2013. The Indonesian ended up pulling out with an injury and he had to wait another three years to fight for the promotion.

Rahardian is now a veteran of 12 ONE Championship fights. The 33 year old trains at Bali MMA and has witnessed first hand how the sport has developed in Indonesia over the course of the last decade.

He thinks the influx of foreign coaches to Indonesia has been a key factor behind the emergence of local fighters like like Elipitua Siregar and Fajar, who both train at Bali MMA. Rahardian says they are both fortunate to have access to opportunities which didn’t exist a decade ago,

“When I first came to Bali MMA I was alone (because) there weren’t any other Indonesian athletes except for me so I was struggling a bit with the language barrier. So, my emphasis to them (the young Indonesian fighters) was that they needed to make sacrifices.”

Strict and disciplined

ONE Championship veterans Andrew and Anthony Leone both coach at Bali MMA as well as New Zealander Mike Ikilei. Rahardian believes this influx of overseas coaches has helped the team establish an international reputation,

“Foreign coaches normally have high expectations and it’s no secret that they are strict and disciplined. I had always imagined that there would be a big gym in Indonesia like the ones in the western part of the world, where it becomes the center of martial arts training.”

Rahardian is coming off a decision win over Adrian Mattheis at ONE: ‘Dawn of Valor’. Having won his first seven bouts for the promotion he then suffered a four fight losing skid.

It has given him a broad range of experiences. He’s had periods during his career when absolutely everything has gone right and then suffered four consecutive losses in the space of a single year.

Elite opposition

Rahardian has been in with elite strikers like Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Rene Catalan and BJJ black belts like Alex Silva. The 33 year old has never been knocked out and should still have many more miles on the clock.

But Rahardian is also conscious that this experience could make him a successful coach and he is already starting to embrace his role as a mentor to young Indonesian fighters at Bali MMA,

“I am grateful to hear that they have been inspired by me because I feel my hard work pays off. I have never made it a target to become an inspiration for the guys, I am just happy with what I am doing but when the time comes for me to open a gym or become a coach, I want to give back something positive, so that none of the students will feel it was useless to have trained and learned with me.”

However it is not all one way traffic. Rahardian fought three times in 2019 and took four bouts the previous year so he is still extremely active as a professional mixed martial artist.

Continuously evolving

While he enjoys the opportunity to give back to the MMA community by coaching younger fighters for Rahardian this relationship is symbiotic. He’s eager to point out that the learning doesn’t stop once the teaching begins,

“Mixed martial arts is continuously evolving, learning from anyone. For example, Elipitua has a strong background in wrestling, and he often gives advice to me, and he also asks me about grappling. We support each other and need criticism from each other.”

While the MMA scene in Indonesia has really started to develop in the last decade there has been a strong culture of BJJ since before the start of the century. Rahardian has his roots in that sport,

“I had wanted to be an athlete when I was at school, but I had no idea which sport I should do. I always thought competing while carrying the country’s flag looked cool and prideful. Then I took BJJ and thought that this was what my soul had been looking for.”

Words of wisdom

Rahardian has come closer to challenging for a ONE Championship title than any other Indonesian. Winning seven straight fights for the promotion was a remarkable achievement, even if this  streak was brought to an abrupt halt.

So he is well equipped to offer advice to up and coming fighters and Rahardian has the following words of wisdom for any Indonesians looking to forge a career as competitive mixed martial artists,

“To get where I am right now was not easy. Keep your head low and also learn from your teammates, no matter whether they are above or below you. You have to listen to their input.”