The 31-year-old veteran of the Circle is set to lock horns with the Filipino on the main card of ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, an event which has been announced as the organization’s first-ever closed-door event due to complications of the coronavirus (official name COVID-19).
Both veteran athletes have a lot in common. They joined ONE Championship in 2012 and have turned in incredible performances. Banario became the first ONE Featherweight World Champion when he won the title that year. At the time, Wiratchai was a rising star. As their careers progressed, however, they never had the chance to cross paths.
Wiratchai and Banario were featherweights then.
“We have both been in ONE for a long time. When I made my debut, he was on the same card,” Wiratchai said.
“I’m sure we both thought we would be future opponents back then. We’re like friends now – it’s always a happy feeling when I see him and we share a similar kind of experience – but I’m excited to face him.”
Wiratchai competed in a few lightweight contests and experienced mixed results. He’s faced guys like Peter Davis and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki, besting the likes of Rahul Raju and Rajinder Singh Meena. But a recent three-bout skid has forced the Thai warrior back down to his original weight class.
“He was the champion at featherweight and I saw fans saying to him, ‘Wow, you’re back to your first division, everything is going to be good.’ I just have to remind them that I’m getting back to my best division too, so it is going to be fun,” said Wiratchai.
“I’m happy that I’ve been dealing with those people at lightweight – they’re so strong – but I don’t need to prove to anyone that I can stay around. I want to see where I can be at my best.”
The change of weight class could do wonders for Wiratchai, who appeared stronger as a featherweight when he started his career.
When “OneShin” steps into the Circle against “The Rock” this Friday night, fans can expect two hungry and accomplished featherweights who are willing to give their all and return to the winners’ column.
“I was talking to my coaches and discussing it a lot, and my strength and conditioning coach said we could get my body fat percentage down quite easily,” said Wiratchai.
“I think when I really realized it was when I was in the locker room with Mark Abelardo from Fairtex, and I was like, ‘Well he’s my size in the off-season and I’m fighting at lightweight!’ I was shocked, but that was like a call to me to go to featherweight.”