The Indian MMA star Rahul Raju is one of the prominent names in ONE Championship in South Asia. The “Kerala Krusher,” who fights out of the Juggernauts fight club in Singapore, has displayed some high-level skills in his last two bouts inside the ONE cage. He has a rising fan base in the subcontinent after showcasing his passion towards the fight game.
Raju will face Richard Corminal at ONE: Enter The Dragon in Singapore on May 17th. MMASucka got an opportunity to speak with Rahul Raju ahead of the fight.
What’s the story behind the name “KERALA KRUSHER” and who bestowed this title upon you?
It was my head coach at Juggernauts Fight Club, Mr. Arvind Lalwani who passed me the name. So, normally my style is such that I put a lot of pressure on people. I put pressure until I get the submission or a TKO. My coach was like, he’s literally crushing his opponents, and I’m from Kerala (a Southern Indian State). So he gave me the name “Kerala Krusher” on Facebook. I came to know about this later only and I was cool with the name. I thought I’ll have it for a while and change it later but eventually, I started the liking it, too.
And the walkout song, “EXTREME WAYS,” are you a huge Bourne series fan? That track by Moby was used as the title song in all four Bourne movies.
Ways! Yes, that’s one of my favorite. Yes, I’m a huge Bourne Series fan. I especially liked the first two parts. The third part was also okay, but the first two arts made me a huge Matt Damon fan also. The fourth part also I was not that impressed, but yes that was one of my favorite movies. And more than that, the music and the feels was crazy man, I really liked it. You’re right, I am a fan of the Bourne Series. But who knows I may change my song for the next fight, but I really love this song.
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Took the fight on a 4 days notice against team Lakay former champ Honorio Banario. It was challenging but for me the opportunity to step inside @onechampionship cage itself was enough to push through it. My head Coach Arvind Lalwani could’t make it because he was running SIngapore Fighting Champioship on the same fight day. So we approached my former coach and one of the best fighter @honeybadger305 to help me for this trip to Manila,Philippines.He said yes with out even thinking twice,that’s the bond between us. All went great,Manila was great One Championship welcomed us with love. We both put a great fight for the fans. There was nothing left in both of us and yeah he got the win and I am sure he might looked a bit better in Judges eyes.I am just getting started,Soon,I will be at the top of the ladder, and until then,I won’t rest. It was a great trip, the fans was great. Thanks to @ajpyro and @the_1_hit_wonder for cornering me. Last but not least, I had the privilege to meet an amazing bad-ass human being, @thedieseldiva , thanks for all your support and encouragement. You are awesome.Biggest win for me was the chat with @yodchatri the CEO of One Championship after the fight. Thanks Dr @wadeswade and @activelifechirosingapore to give the proper adjustments to my body for better recovery and performance. Thanks to @juggernautfightclub Family and my family in Kerala,India for always standing with me. I am very happy for all those who won on Singapore Fighting Championship.Have a blessed weekend everyone.#juggernautfightclub #peacethroughsports #tribediseldiva #onechampioship #honeybadger #keralakrusher
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You recently had a brilliant fight against the former ONE featherweight champ and team Lakay sensation Honorio Banario in few days notice. How was the experience of fighting him at his home ground?
Yes, I took the four-day notice to fight Honorio Banario in his home ground. The experience was great. I was looking towards fighting ASAP after the Garry Tonon fight, it has been three or four months when I got the phone call with this offer, so I was mentally ready. And yes, I put a good performance even though it was at short notice, and I was happy. So yeah, that’s about it.
It’s now time for you to face another Filipino fighter, Richard “Notorious” Corminal during the ONE: Enter the Dragon event in Singapore on May 17th. What do you have to say about this matchup?
This time I’m feeling good. I’m having a great camp and the best thing is we have an additional wrestling coach at our team. Mr. Matt Balino is a Division I All American wrestler, he is amazing. My wrestling game is on point now, and he was an MMA coach for so many MMA fighters. So he is helping me in my overall game as well with his knowledge.
The experience I gained from my previous fights I adjust my game in a way that I am ready for any challenge. So overall, I am ready now. In fact, I was looking forward to fighting on the last Singapore card against Ahmed Mujtaba. So I am ready and I am grateful for this opportunity, and I will put my best on the 17th of May.
You have a lot of similarities with Richard Corminal when it comes to your fight resume. Both have fought Tonon and Shannon Wiratchai, almost around the same time. In the Tonon fight, you gave him a lot of trouble, but Corminal couldn’t give him any challenge even on the feet. But he had some initial success against Wiratchai, but your campaign against Wiratchai was the first-round disappointment. Can these prior results be of any significance in your next bout against Corminal?
Yeah, we do have similarities because we have had the same opponents in the past; Tonon and Shannon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much against Shannon because I overcommitted and it was my first fight at ONE Championship. And yes he couldn’t give a good performance against Garry Tonon. I hope we both learned from that experience and we both improved and we worked hard, so we will put a better performance this time.
For sure, I’ll be ready, and I hope and I am sure that he will be ready. This fighting game is a cruel game at times, you will be in a bad spot at times. But a lot of great champions have had a tough time and they have emerged from them. So I will be ready and I’m sure he will be ready, so I wish him the best.
You are now a full-time coach at Juggernaut Fight Club, Singapore. As you have told me earlier, this has helped you a lot in your game as well. You have some other dangerous men also in the camp. Can you please tell us about your training partners and life at the gym?
Yes, I am a full-time coach at Juggernaut Fight Club. I take the Jiu-Jitsu no-gi program and I divide MMA class with Matt Palino, so we both are coaching the MMA class. So it’s a great experience and my game evolved a lot after coaching, because I understand more and I try to learn more. And yes, this time we have an amazing coach with us, Matt Palino. And other than that we always had Arvind Lalwani, my striking coach. He always is at his best work to improve my game.
And I have Muhammad Arab Alkhatib, our conditioning coach. He always put effort to make sure that I stay in the best shape. Other than that I have a great team. We have some amazing wrestlers with us now, and we have a great MMA team. The best part is on April 17th, three of our MMA fighters fought in Ultimate Beatdown Malaysia. We are a busy team now, and slowly we are moving up. We are building good fighters, and we had great success in some of the recent BJJ tournaments.
So as a team we are evolving, and my teammates Aashiq and Rafi fought in Thailand for a pro boxing belt. Our female fighters like Amanda and Nurshahidah recently took part in pro boxing at Singapore. So we are building our team strong, and everyone is evolving, everyone is fighting and everyone is busy. We are putting a lot of hard work into it. So I am very much excited to see this growth and where we as a team go this year and in the future. And yes, I have a great team with me now.
Can you please tell us about the present status of your highly anticipated “India Vs Pak” matchup against Ahmed Mujtaba? That’s a fight the fans in the entire subcontinent was looking forward to. How was your training going ahead of this fight and how did you feel after the situation got worse between the two nations?
That was one of the fights that I was looking forward to. I had a great camp ahead of that fight. I trained very hard but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The reason I heard was he had some Visa issues. I don’t know why, but it happens sometimes. After that, I heard that they don’t want to put the fight very soon because of the rising tensions between India and Pakistan, and he also had some family issues so he couldn’t fight at that time.
Honestly, I think that sports are the best medium to work towards making peace. I feel that we need to fight each other more in sports rather than bringing more hate over political issues. I hope in future it will be that way. And I also believe that the fight would take place after my next bout in Singapore. Yeah, that’s all I have to say about this issue now.
You are one of the main faces of #PeaceThroughSports movement by Diesel Diva. She even was present to support you at Singapore ahead of the fight until it got cancelled due to the tension between India and Pakistan. How you think this organization can make an impact In this situation?
Yes, I am one of the faces of the “Peace Through Sports” movement by Diesel Diva, and yes, I am very happy about that. She is one of the ladies doing great things for the sports. She has built a brand called “Peace Through Sports,” “Tribe Diesel Diva.” She is all for the positive things, and those kind of people are what we need. We need the support and encouragement. She is doing a great job, she is building fighters, she is there to support us, and she was there the last time.
I was very happy but [the fight] didn’t happen, unfortunately. But I was really happy that she was there. She understands the situation and she said that in future, the fight will happen and she will be present to support me. I will also be proud to represent the “Peace Through Sports” movement by Diesel Diva. That’s a great thing I can do for the sports and for the wellbeing of the society. And I am looking forward to doing it in every fight I’m part of.
Would you like to fight Banario again with a proper training camp, maybe in India? ONE Championship has big plans for India.
Honestly, I would like to fight any of my previous opponents again, but I’m not in a stage where I can call out everyone. I need to slowly build up my winning streak first. More than Honorio Banario, I would like to fight Shannon again because that is the one loss that really hurt me. That was a knockout loss and I never got knocked out before. So it was my mistake, I overextended and didn’t see his punch coming, maybe because it was the first time in that huge cage, and it happened that way.
I am taking everything in a positive way. “We win or we learn.” I learned from that fight, and I learned from each of my losses. Now, I am looking forward to fighting anyone they are putting before me, so I’m not choosing my opponent. I want to fight the best guys. ONE Championship is now becoming one of the best brands. It’s compared to the UFC now. And in future, it may even be better than the UFC.
Now, ONE Championship is one of the biggest brands in Asia and I’m very proud to be part of the One Championship family. Obviously, we will move to India soon and whoever the opponent will be, I’ll be ready to fight.
Garry Tonon and you have a lot of respect for each other. He was one of the first to congratulate you via social media after your brilliant show against Honorio Banario. How was the relationship with Tonon after the fight, and do you take help from him when it comes to your ground game?
We are not always connected, and we never speak with each other. We just congratulate each other during these occasions, that’s it. I have huge respect for him. So definitely I’ll be watching his videos on BJJ. I follow John Danaher, that guy is a legend. He built the world’s best team. I follow closely all the members of the “Danaher Death Squad.” I try to learn from their videos. Other than that, Garry and I don’t have a great friendship or something like that. We just like and comment on each other’s posts on social media, that’s it.
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