Agilan “The Alligator” Thani’s dream will come true on Friday, 13 July in Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian martial arts hero will walk out in front of thousands of his countrymen in the Axiata Arena as the main-event star of ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER.
The Sentul native also has the chance to become the top contender in ONE Championship’s welterweight division with a victory against Zebastian “The Bandit” Kadestam.
The prospect of carrying an event in his hometown – and against a dangerous opponent, no less – might weigh heavily on the shoulders of most 22-year-olds, but Thani is excited about the opportunity.
“I’m just happy I get to be in the main event in Malaysia. I didn’t know this was going to happen,” he exclaims.
Few could blame “Alligator” for being happy ahead of this pivotal bout. He has found a way to become more relaxed when he trains, and is an undefeated 6-0 in his homeland.
Following his ONE Welterweight World Title challenge against Ben “Funky” Askren in Singapore, Thani resumed his Kuala Lumpur streak last August, when he dominated Sherif Mohamed for 15 minutes and emerged with a unanimous decision.
He extended it in March when he submitted Amitesh Chaubey in the second round. That was much more like his usual bout-finishing form, and improved his mixed martial arts record to 8-1 – with seven victories via stoppage.
“I think I did very well in my last fight,” he says.
“I prepared very well for it – I didn’t kill myself throughout the camp. I listened a lot to my coaches and my team, and the outcome was very good.”
Since that contest, Thani had continued to improve his skills at Monarchy MMA, as evidenced by his promotion to brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
However, “Alligator” says the real test of his development will be in the cage.
“I don’t see my progress skyrocketing, because I’m training with the same group of guys every day,” he explains
“Even though I am improving, my guys are improving as well, so I don’t see much changes in my game. When I fight, things just come to me, and that is when I see how much I have improved.
“For now, I only see myself as good as my last fight. I don’t know how good I am going to be against Kadestam – I am just waiting to test myself.”
When i was 17 i was training jiujitsu under this man he promoted me to four stripe white belt and after that i had many professors and i m so honored to be promoted by him again to a brown belt today. Thank u so much professor U are awesome and i m more than happy and proud to say that i m ur student . Oss
Kadestam will undoubtedly be a tough test for Thani. However, the Malaysian martial artist is not doing anything to add extra pressure to the occasion.
He is focused on staying relaxed, and concentrating on what he has to do to have his hand raised, rather than what could happen to him.
“I think it’s something I learned throughout my career. To just go with the flow, because you’re never sure what is going to happen,” he says.
“I don’t know what makes someone a big step up in competition. After all, we are all fighting towards the same goals.
“If I consider him higher in the ranks than me, I’m putting myself down, and I don’t think you should do that. I’m going to fight for what I want, and he’s going to fight for what he wants, and whoever is the bravest, the toughest, the strongest, and the smartest is going to win.”
One look at Kadestam’s debut performance in ONE shows what kind of danger he presents. The Stockholm native needed just one flash of offense to turn the tables on Luis “Sapo” Santos, and earn an amazing come-from-behind knockout victory.
However, the first two rounds of that bout, as well as his subsequent World Title challenge against Ben “Funky” Askren, showed why he could be the perfect foil for Thani.
“Alligator” thrives in grappling contests, and Kadestam has shown he is susceptible to being taken down and controlled on the mat. Despite that, the Malaysian is taking nothing for granted.
“I know one thing for sure – when I fight him, he is going to have more confidence than most of the fighters in the division,” he explains.
“He was the only guy who went two rounds with Askren. He is going to have more confidence than all the guys in ONE Championship.
“I see he is a very confident guy in what he is doing, and in his previous fights, he showed he has jiu-jitsu. When you fight someone whom you think is an icon or a big star, you get star struck.
“Sometimes, you don’t want to do anything when you fight someone like Askren. That’s what could have happened with him too. But I think he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”
The only thing Thani does predict with confidence is that he will give everything to triumph in front of a partisan crowd, and this encounter should be an entertaining contest for the fans.
“Yeah, it should be, because I want to fight this guy badly,” Thani adds. “He can give me another step up in my career.
“If I fight him, I get the chance to fight someone better than him. That’s what will get me closer to my goals. My goal is not just to be the champion. My goal is to test myself against the best fighters out there.”