Singapore’s first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Radeem Rahman from the Evolve Fight Team went through a series of twists and turns before finally stepping into the One Fighting Championship (One FC) cage in 2011 for his debut fight.
That was the moment he had been waiting for his whole life.
He won that fight, making it a successful inaugural One FC outing, and was looking forward to his next fight a year later when injuries threw him off track.
To his great disappointment, he had to pull out from that second scheduled fight because of a dislocated little finger.
Radeem Rahman is Singapore's first professional mixed martial arts fighter
Then two months later, Radeem suffered the biggest injury of his career – a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the knee during training.
That put him out of the game completely as he spent nearly a year on rehabilitation.
The 26-year-old told inSing: “I had to go through surgery and then for three months after that, I could not do anything except try to lift my leg. When I could get back on my feet, I went back to Evolve, but it was like starting at zero. I had to rebuild the muscle, regain my strength and work on my fitness all over again.”
The recovery process was tough, but Radeem pushed himself through. “I was frustrated, demoralised and even harboured thoughts of giving up at some point, but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on the injury too much.
“With the strong support network I have around me at Evolve, I was able to keep myself motivated and get back to where I was, or better,” he said.
Recovering faster than expected, he is now preparing for his next fight is on 30 May during One FC’s Honor & Glory event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
He will go up against Malaysia’s top bantamweight fighter Raymond Tan and he is more than ready to make up for lost time.
As a child, Radeem was already very active, often running around or spending too much time playing video games.
In an attempt to make him calm down and divert attention away from the video games, his father made him watch videos of boxing and Muay Thai instead.
When his father suggested that he represented his primary school in taekwondo, Radeem gave it a shot, but being skinny, he was still intimidated by the bigger guys and did not have an outstanding taekwondo expedition.
Throughout secondary school, he continued watching boxing and Muay Thai DVDs, and often practised moves on his own at home.
At the age of 16, he signed up for boxing classes at a community centre, and attended them religiously three times a week for two years.
Thinking back, he felt that those classes were more of a workout for him. When he joined Evolve, he had to relearn everything.
COST OF TRAINING
It was during his national service days that Radeem walked past Evolve’s space in PoMo building along Selegie Road.
He made up his mind that he will train there after he finished the compulsory two years of army service. Even then, the fees were not something that he or his family could afford, so Radeem took on odd jobs just to save up for the $3,000 he needed to join Evolve.
“Working the night shift as a security guard at a factory for Magnolia milk, cooking and delivering pizzas for Canadian Pizza, serving croissants at Delifrance – I did them all. I just wanted to earn the money as quickly as possible so I could join them,” he recalled.
After four months of little sleep and long hours, Radeem finally had enough to pay for a one-year membership at Evolve. He then took on a job as a technical assistant at ACS Primary School which had working hours to suit his training at Evolve.
“I was training there every day and the instructors saw how keen I was in Muay Thai, so one day I got an offer to fight in Thailand.” he said.
After representing Evolve and winning fights a couple more times, Radeem was given a golden opportunity. Chatri Sityodtong, founder of Evolve, offered him a job at Evolve so that Radeem could train for free and chase his dreams of becoming a professional fighter.
It was so timely, since Radeem’s one-year membership was expiring and he was worried about the finances again.
Making full use of this opportunity, Radeem trained hard to earn a spot on the Evolve Fight Team alongside world champions such as Shinya Aoki, Ben Askren and Leandro Issa.
Although he has only had one ONE FC fight under his belt due to the injuries that plagued him last year, he is determined to achieve his dream of becoming a world champion one day, just like his coaches and team-mates.
One FC: Honor & Glory | Date: 30 May 2014 | Time: From 7pm | Venue: Singapore Indoor Stadium | Tickets: $38-$348 from Sportshub.com.sg
Cheryl Tay first established herself in the world of cars and motorsports. A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl is one of the few female motoring journalists in Singapore and writes for prominent titles locally and internationally. She is also a huge fitness freak and enjoys working out as much as she does writing about fitness. More of her at www.cheryltay.sg or @cheryltay11 on Instagram.