MIMMA Welterweight Champion Agilan “The Alligator” Thani was surprised to find out that he would welcome Japanese-Korean mixed martial arts veteran Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama to ONE Championship on 15 June at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China.
However, the odds won’t be in Thani’s favor at the upcoming ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST after the poor performances in his last two bouts.
The 23-year-old found a new sense of hope when he started focusing on himself, rather than what others had to say about him. The former welterweight title contender also began to train harder to prove that he is more than worthy to face K-1 HERO’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament Champion.
“Something that I learned throughout my time off and throughout the times that I lost is that my opinion is the most important opinion,” Thani said. “If I keep asking everybody’s opinion, they’re gonna say, ‘Oh, you’re not ready, you’re not going to do this, you’re not going to beat Akiyama.’”
“I wake up every morning, and I just tell myself, ‘Hey look, I’m gonna beat Akiyama, and that’s the deal you made.’ I’m making the deal to myself every day saying, ‘If I don’t beat this guy, at least I’m going to give him a fight. I gotta keep saying to myself that I’m going to beat Akiyama, and if I don’t, I’ll try again,’” Thani added.
Akiyama, a 15-year veteran with a 70% win rate, has been competing internationally against the best athletes various promotions have to offer. The master of Judoka is known to go all out in every match he competes in which has earned admiration from his opponents and praise from fans.
After learning from his past mistakes, “The Alligator” knows he needs to approach this match as the most important one of his young career. The Monarchy MMA representative is fully aware of what Akiyama is capable of but believes he has the edge in this match.
“He’s very athletic and very strong, that’s for sure. He has the Japanese mentality – like a go-to-war kind of mentality,” Thani said. “I think he has a lot of strengths. His experience is number one because of fighting so many high-level guys for a very long period of time. He’s not afraid to stand up or get taken down. His judo will be the key in this match, but I believe my BJJ grappling is better.”
A bounce-back win over a big name like Akiyama could jumpstart Thani’s morale again.
“I look at it as a decision or submission [for me]. I don’t want to think of anything fancy and strategic, but if it comes down to one situation, I’d love to put him up against the fence and finish the bout. That’s my strength,” expressed Thani.
Thani, who only has 12 professional matches under his name, believes that age won’t become a big factor when it comes to martial arts and that the mindset and preparation of an athlete will.
The Malaysian star has remained focused on his training and has blocked out all negativity, knowing he is capable of giving Akiyama and the fans the best performance of his life.
“He’s 43 now, but he’s still much more ripped than me,” Thani quipped. “Most of the guys I fought at ONE Championship are older than me, and they’ve put in a good performance against me. I cannot underestimate him. He may be past his prime, but there might be a new motivation for him.”
“Hey Akiyama, I know you’re a sexy guy, but I hope you bring your A-game for me!” Thani concluded.