Sports

Rahul Raju wins respect in Manila, eyes Singapore bout in February

Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju never backed down for one second.

Last Friday, 23 November, the Singapore-based Indian valiantly went to the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines to face local hero Honorio “The Rock” Banario in a 79-kilogram catch weight bout at ONE: Conquest Of Champions.

The 27-year-old accepted the match on four days’ notice, and he gave the Filipino contender all he could handle through three rounds.

In the end, the judges awarded a unanimous decision victory to Banario, but not without the Team Lakay standout raising Raju’s hand in the middle of the cage to acknowledge his opponent’s performance.

Considering there was little time to prepare, the Juggernaut Fight Club representative planned to make it a short night.

“The [initial] game plan was to take him down and finish him as soon as possible, and the second game plan was to do a dogfight to push the pace and make him play my game,” he explained.

Raju thought the second game plan was more effective, as he could not get the finish on the ground. He was even caught in a couple of submission holds in the closing moments of the second and third rounds.

“Before the bell, he got me in a neck crank. It looked deep, but it totally wasn't controlled. In 10 seconds, I could have reversed him," he recalled.

“The armbar was in the second round. It wasn't tight — that’s why I easily defended it.”

While he delivered his best performance yet in the ONE Championship cage, he could only hope for the best when the match went to the scorecards. 

Although the decision did not go his way, the reaction from the fans and one very important person made the experience worthwhile.

“After the fight, the reception I received from people and the man himself, Chatri Sityodtong (Chairman and CEO of ONE Championship), made me happy,” he said. “In the end, I am a happy man.”

Now, “The Kerala Krusher” is turning the page.

He will resume his training at Juggernaut Fight Club soon, and hopes to be featured on a show in early 2019.

“I love fighting,” he stated. "I thought of getting on the next Manila card in January, but my coach said the Singapore card in February would be best, so that may be the call.”

MMA (MIXED MARTIAL ARTS)