ONE Championship welterweight contender Agilan “The Alligator” Thani is the first to admit that he has a stern challenge on his hands in Shanghai later this month.
Thani will welcome Yoshihiro Akiyama to ONE Championship at ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST in the Japanese-Korean star’s highly-anticipated promotional debut as part of a blockbuster evening of bouts on Saturday, 15 June.
The former Judo world champion and mixed martial arts veteran Akiyama – who’s made a successful crossover into the world of pop music – will bring plenty of extra eyeballs with him from around the globe as he takes to his biggest stage yet.
Thani – who’s 20 years his opponent’s junior – will be looking to spoil that moment with a win he believes is well within his grasp.
While he admits Akiyama has a well-rounded skillset, Thani has no doubt he has what it takes to clinch a victory that would put him back into title consideration – a test he welcomes with open arms.
“He’s a good stand up fighter and a good grappler, he’s not one dimensional at all. So it’s a great match up for me because I’m a well-rounded fighter as well,” said Thani.
“It’ll be great to go against him and test myself as to how much I’ve grown as an athlete.”
In preparing for the bout, Thani has gone back to the drawing board, working to strengthen the fundamentals that have seen him rise so quickly at such a relatively young age as he looks to get back on track following a couple of hard-fought losses.
“I’ve been focusing on becoming a good athlete in general, not just a good fighter. On having a good diet, training and weightlifting regime.
“For this camp I was focusing more on cross training, training at places with guys more experienced than me, learning how to deal with being put under pressure.”
At just 23-years-old the fighter known as “The Alligator” is still years away from his prime. With a slew of submission victims in his wake, he’s now looking to ensure his ever-improving striking skills catch up with his abilities on the ground.
“I’m constantly trying to improve everywhere because I feel like I still have a lot of things to learn. Looking back at all my fights and all my losses, I need to learn every aspect of the sport, not only one.”
It’s the kind of measured and mature attitude that suggests the best is yet to come from the proud Malaysian.