Alain “The Panther” Ngalani has his eyes on a future rematch with ONE Light Heavyweight World Champion Aung La N Sang. Before he continues his pursuit of “The Burmese Python” and his title, however, the muscular phenom will make a quick detour to the highly-acclaimed ONE Super Series.
Following a recent unanimous decision victory in March, which saw him move down from heavyweight to compete at light heavyweight for the first time in his mixed martial arts career, the Hong Kong-based hulk will return to his martial arts roots on Saturday, 23 June.
With the threat of the takedown stripped way, Ngalani can comfortably unleash the punishing strikes that earned him four Muay Thai and kickboxing world championships. He talks more about that, as well as his future goals to rule two sports, in this exclusive interview.
ONE: In your victory over Ariunbold Tur-Ochir in March, you competed at light heavyweight, and went to a decision for the first time ever. How did you feel?
Alain Ngalani: I actually felt really good. With my team, we have been working on different things like my stamina, and fighting on the ground, and it came into play. We are pretty happy with the result.
It is just encouraging to see that certain things can be improved when you put your mind to it. I was about 6 kilograms lighter than when I was competing at heavyweight, and I felt faster and really fit to go the distance.
ONE: Recently, you have mentioned a renewed commitment to grappling. Are you afraid you may be neglecting it by competing in ONE Super Series?
AN: I feel like I have been really pushing on the grappling side, and right now I am having a good break to focus on kickboxing. It is taking my mind off the ground work a little bit, but my team does not think that will affect me too much.
It will help me to go back and polish my striking technique, and perhaps help me to rest and come back even stronger for jiu-jitsu. I do not think that having a few months off will tarnish anything.
ONE: Do you feel it is difficult to switch from mixed martial arts to kickboxing rules?
AN: Yeah. In a way, it is tough to switch, because with mixed martial arts we have started something already, and now I have to put that on hold to go back to kickboxing. But in terms of my training, it is not really a problem.
I am focusing on my striking now, but as soon as I am done, I will get right back to [mixed martial arts]. I am versatile enough that I can move from one to the other, and it keeps things interesting and exciting for me.
ONE: How excited are you to be a part of ONE Super Series, and do you have any specific goals?
AN: I am really happy about it, and I have a goal — that is to conquer the ONE Super Series’ kickboxing ranks and to take the world title sometime this year.
My ultimate goal is to conquer the light heavyweight division in mixed martial arts, as well. I will be watching Aung La N Sang’s next bout, and I am looking forward to facing him again this year for the rematch to get that world title.
ONE: At ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, you will face Tarik Khbabez in Macau, which is close to your home and your gym, Impakt MMA, in Hong Kong. Will that make a difference?
AN: It is going to be my [second] time competing in Macau, and yes, I take Macau as my turf, as I am based next door in Hong Kong.
A lot of my fans will come down and watch me compete, so I have to perform to please the crowd. I am very excited about that. I am keen to go there and give one of the best performances of the night.
I think about the people coming to watch me and support me every day when I am heading to training. It brings a lot of pressure and a lot of excitement, but I will go out there and put on a good show for everybody.
ONE: How will it feel to have the support from your Impakt MMA family live at the Studio City Event Center?
AN: A lot of people from my gym will be there, for sure. This is a good opportunity for everybody to come, and we will make it a celebration for Impakt — not just for my win, but for the gym as a whole.
I need to start very strong, and I need to make a statement that I am one of the baddest men in kickboxing, and I will show that. My plan is to impress everybody, and then look for the world titles.
ONE: Is there anything you feel the need to prove in this ONE Super Series kickboxing bout?
AN: I have a lot of things to prove to myself, and I am looking forward to it. No one is going to try and take me down, so I can relax, and I will be able to come out and throw my punches and my kicks as much as I want.
In previous ONE fights, it has been really difficult, because every time you throw a kick or a punch, you are worrying that in a split second I could be taken down. But this time I will be able to trade comfortably without that worry, so there is going to be a lot of sparks!
Macau | 23 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast