ONE welterweight Agilan Thani has been tasked with welcoming Yoshihiro Akiyama to ONE Championship, and the Malaysian is hoping to ensure it’s a promotional debut that the Japanese-Korean superstar remembers for all the wrong reasons.
The two will square off in the co-main event at ONE: Legendary Quest in Shanghai’s Baoshan Arena on June 15, where the attention of the combat sports world will be centered for a glimpse at the former world champion judoka’s first foray with the planet’s most-watched martial arts promotion.
Akiyama has a wealth of experience under his belt, having competed at the top levels of both judo and mixed martial arts for almost 15 years against some of the toughest competitors the sport has to offer, including former UFC world champion Michael Bisping, Jake Shields, and fellow ONE newcomer Vitor Belfort.
But the 43-year-old Akiyama is 20 years the senior of Thani and hasn’t stepped inside the cage in almost four years.
It’s a trap Thani refuses to fall into, as he prepares to measure himself against the very best version of Akiyama. You only need to look as far as his chiseled physique to realize Akiyama still has plenty of athleticism and gas left in his tank.
“I’m sure he’ll be very strong because he looks pretty ripped, and when you get old you have a lot of strength with you,” Thani points out.
“I’m just anticipating a crazy Akiyama. It will be a good fight, I think.”
The Monarchy MMA believes they match up well in all areas, which should result in an even and entertaining contest, as well as the ideal way to measure his own developing skillset and fortitude as a martial artist.
While many perceive Thani as a grappling specialist, he’s proven he’s just as adept when it comes to striking as well, to which his three knockout finishes will attest.
“I think he’s a well-rounded fighter. He’s not one dimensional at all. He’s a good standup fighter and a good grappler, so it’s a good matchup 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.”
It promises to be a captivating contest among a bevy of intriguing bouts at the Baoshan Arena, which will be headlined by a ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Championship clash between the surging Stamp Fairtex and rising Australian Alma Juniku.
But don’t ask Thani for a prediction. The only thing he can guarantee is action.
“I just know I want to win, I want to do my best to win, and want to go into chaos with him. That’s it,” Thani concluded.