Radeem Rahman created history at last September’s inaugural ONE Fighting Championship as Singapore’s first professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter. The 24-year-old enjoyed a dream debut when he knocked out his opponent, India’s Susovan Ghosh, in just over 3 minutes, much to the delight of a sold-out Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Radeem reflects on that milestone win. "When I entered the cage, I just wanted to do my best. Since I am a striker, my strategy was to fight standing up. I didn’t expect to win the first round, but in MMA, you’ve got to take the chance when you have the opportunity to. I applied everything my instructors taught me to the match and it worked perfectly. I am really happy to have made Singapore, my instructors, and my teammates in Evolve Fight Team proud," he says.
The victory wasn’t a shock to his trainers. "Radeem is a talented fighter who provides everyone with an element of surprise in his fights. Radeem is also a fast learner who is able to pick up new moves from different martial arts forms such as Brazillan Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. Thus, Evolve had a lot of confidence that Radeem would be able to perform well as a professional MMA fighter," says Chatri Sityodtong, founder of Evolve MMA.
Murmurs of Discontent
However, Radeem’s win was marred by unhappy murmurs that his size was an unfair advantage over his smaller opponent. Radeem wants to set the the record straight, "In MMA, it’s all about your weight, not your size. You will compete with an opponent in the same weight category," he says, "For ONE FC, the weigh-in was open to the public and it was conducted 24 hours before the fight. Hundreds of fans came to watch both my opponent and I qualify for the same weight category."
Training and actually fighting were two different challenges, admits Radeem. "During training, we usually focus on techniques and strategies in the cage, but in a match, a small mistake can change the game completely. Training is about looking at things that need work on, and situations where I can escape or submit. In a match, you have to think and react fast, and that’s where the trainings come in to help. You have to train in order to know what to do or how to defend yourself against any situation."
"I Want To Be A World Champion Like My Instructors"
Leading up to that ONE FC bout, Radeem trained 5 to 6 hours a day, six days a week under the guidance of the Evolve Fight Team. After his victory, Radeem continues to train the same number of hours, six days every week. "In the morning, I do MMA trainings with my team where I focus on my ground game like submission, passing the guard and defending against takedowns. In the afternoon, I’ll train on my stamina through cardio exercises such as running, striking, and doing Muay Thai with all the World Champion Instructors. On top of that, I do strength conditioning and muscle endurance trainings with Mitch Chilson (Evolve’s director of strength and conditioning and MMA champion)," Radeem shares.
Despite the hard work he puts into his workouts, Radeem considers what he eats to be more crucial. "I believe that the most important part is my diet. Having balanced meals help fuel my trainings," he says, "As a professional fighter, I have to be disciplined in the food I consume. I eat clean carbs and proteins; proper foods that channel my energy into training. I always ask advice from Mitch about nutrition and diet too."
Radeem has plenty of role models to look up to at work. "The trainers at Evolve are really amazing! I still cannot believe that I am training with all the World Champion instructors. Just by watching them train gives me inspiration and motivation to be like them. What amazes me is that even though they are already World Champions, they still train extremely hard. Seeing that makes me want to improve my game," he says. He reveals his goal, "I want to be a world champion like my instructors and make them proud at the same time."
Believing In The Future OF MMA
Radeem’s passion for MMA can be credited to his early exposure to the sport. "When I was young, my parents brought me to watch MMA competitions in Singapore and I watched them on DVDs too. I decided to be a professional fighter because it’s my dream," he says. "If this is the career that I really want, then I have to work really hard for it," Radeem recalls his mother’s advice to him.
What The Future Holds For Radeem
With another ONE FC event slated for March in Singapore, Radeem’s focusing on shoring up his weaknesses and becoming a more all-rounded fighter. "Striking is my strength as I fought in Muay Thai a couple of times before switching to MMA. For now, I can say that I am a stand up fighter. In the future, I want to be more versatile by improving on my ground game, particularly takedown and takedown defence," he shares, "I’ve been training hard on areas that I have to improve on because in this sport, I have to constantly progress. I know that to be successful, one has to work hard towards it. In the future, I would like to compete more in MMA and gain valuable experiences. I am still new in MMA, it’s all a learning journey for me!"
Pictures courtesy of ONE Fighting Championship.