They have grown accustomed to his meticulous instruction as a BJJ coach at the Beach Road gym – a place Raju has called home for the past seven years.
Head coach Arvind “The Juggernaut” Lalwani recalled his struggles to keep Raju off the mats after the Indian lightweight returned from surgery in January.
“I kept telling him, ‘Rahul, stop! Do not roll, just show them and tell them what to do,’” Lalwani said.
“He was like, ‘No, no. I need to show them.’”
Raju’s notable intensity and adherence to a strict training regimen have been critical to his success on the global stage for martial arts.
The 28-year-old overcame a tough start to his career, but he quickly emerged as a threat in the lightweight division after authoring two straight finishes in 2019.
Since taking Raju under his wing seven years ago, Lalwani has been excited to see his protégé climb to the top of the mixed martial arts world.
“He was very raw when I first met him. But he was really tough. He would take a beating and still be standing up, and that was pretty impressive,” Lalwani said.
“We started training him to get more technical and since then, he has improved leaps and bounds.”
What struck Lalwani the most was Raju’s sincerity and dedication to his craft.
“He has a really good heart, and he’s got this attitude about him where it’s do or die, it’s all the way till the end,” he said.
“I knew that as soon as he came into the gym, he was a tough guy. Right now, his confidence has grown, and he’s got this warrior spirit where he will fight till the end.”
Having battled opponents like Honorio “The Rock” Banario early in his career, Raju has improved significantly.
“It’s amazing how fast he has developed. He started jiu-jitsu less than five to six years ago, and when he fought against Garry Tonon, it was very impressive,” Lalwani said.
“Back then, he had just turned a purple belt, and now he’s already a brown belt.”
With Raju’s career on an upward trajectory, his head coach believes the future is promising for his star pupil.
“He’s still in the process of developing into a proper mixed martial arts fighter, but at this point right now, we are really happy with his progress,” Lalwani said.
“Give him probably another year or so and he will be really, really hard to beat.”
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