Malaysian undefeated young prospect Agilan Thani(3-0) once again ventured overseas to prepare for his upcoming fight this weekend in One Championship Kuala Lumpur against Canadian Kickboxer James Kouame(3-6). This time round, Agilan trained at Team Quest in the United States with UFC middleweight Sam Alvey, and Sam had plenty of praise for the Malaysian prospect. Check out the transcript of our interview with Sam below.
How did you guys get acquainted?
Years ago the owner of his gym in Malaysia, Samir Mrabet, came for a camp at Team quest. From the camp our coach Brian Harper went to corner Samir in Malaysia. While in Malaysia he met Agilan. They hit it off and a few years down the road Agilan came back to work with Brian and our gym.
What did you guys worked on?
We worked on everything. He is an insanely talented fighter as it is, so he was happy to help teach me and some of our members as well. He really appreciated the help and so I believe his plans are to make your official move to team quest.
What are Agilan’s greatest strengths?
Agilan’s biggest strength is the ease in which he moves on both his seat and on the ground. He has a very natural rhythm and it makes him dangerous everywhere.
Would it be realistically possible for Agilan to compete at the highest level in UFC one day and how far do you think he is from reaching that position?
Agilan was every bit as talented as some of the UFC fighters that are currently at our gym. I think that even now with a small record he could compete and defeat many of the fighters in the UFC. I’m not really sure how far off he is, I know the UFC is always looking to highlight the talented Asian fighters and he is definitely a talent worth highlighting. My hope is that he makes the official move to the gym and we can work on the UFC shortly after that.
What do you think of One Championship new weight cut policy?
Unfortunately I strongly oppose ONE championship’s new weight cut policy. I think it will lead to slower fights, a higher rate of injury, the talent that wants to fight under the new rules will be far less, and I think it will be completely unmanageable to keep such strict weight requirements on fights from all ends of the world. It will lead to poor enforcement and Injuries are sure to follow.
Outside of the weight cut I love the promotion though.
Agilan Thani will face James Kouame on One Championship Clash of Heroes on the 29th January in Stadium Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Also check out our weekly pound for pound podcast featuring UFC middleweight Sam Alvey.
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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