Gianni Subba’s career changed drastically just a few days ago.
The Malaysian hero was training at Bali MMA in anticipation of his forthcoming clash with Danny Kingad. But on Monday, 26 February, ONE Championship called to offer him a chance to replace injured ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes, and step up to face Reece “Lightning” McLaren (10-5) in the main event of ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
To make it even sweeter, the winner will be awarded with a shot at the ONE Flyweight World Championship in the future. For Subba (9-2), this was the opportunity he has been waiting for.
“If you want to challenge for a belt, you need to beat the contenders,” the 25-year-old says. “So, this is a test for me.”
Subba has passed many tests as of late. The Malaysian hero is on a two-bout winning streak, having recently defeated a pair of world title challengers in Yago Bryan in September 2016, and Riku Shibuya in August 2017. If he defeats McLaren, a third world title challenger, there would be no doubt he deserves a world title shot.
In this exclusive interview, Subba talks about how the match came about. He also talks about the growth of Malaysia’s martial arts scene, which world champion he wants to face, and much more.
ONE Championship: How did the main event bout with Reece McLaren come about?
Gianni Subba: I got the call from ONE telling me something happened to Moraes – I think he got injured – and they asked me if I wanted to step up for the main event. I just said yes.
I knew it was something I wanted to do. Last year, Reece came down to 61kg [flyweight], and I always thought we were going to meet. That was the main number one contender bout, I thought, because I had just taken out Riku Shibuya. It made sense.
I actually thought I was [originally] going to compete against him on the ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY card, but I was matched up with Danny Kingad instead.
ONE: But in the end, you got Reece. That said, are you disappointed you will not be facing Danny?
GS: Not really. I am not really too disappointed. It looks like Kingad got another match, so it is all good. Kingad does have a win over one of my teammates, Muhammad Aiman, but that [match] can wait.
ONE: With merely a week left to go, do you have enough time to prepare and adjust to your new opponent?
GS: I mean, I am in shape. It is the end of training camp, and I am in the best shape I could possibly be. It is just the little technical changes [I am focusing on now]. I just have to clean them up over the next couple of days, and it is what it is.
We are here to compete against each other, and we are here to see who the best martial artist is. The old school guys used to not know who they were competing against, so at least we have an idea.
ONE: This is your first main event appearance, and it is happening in your hometown of Kuala Lumpur. What does that mean to you?
GS: It is special. When I first signed to ONE, I made a couple of goals, and this was one of them — to main event in KL. That, in itself, is special. I have grown with the Malaysian martial arts scene. I have watched it come up.
When I debuted, martial arts was not very big in Malaysia, and then it kinda blew up. I was part of that growth, even till now. I was competing on undercards, to now main eventing in my hometown of Kuala Lumpur, and I will have my friends and family there all to support me.
Plus, when I train in KL, I go to a bunch of the gyms. Everyone is helping everyone in Malaysia, and it is awesome.
ONE: What do you feel are Reece’s strengths, and in what areas are you stronger?
GS: His strength is definitely his relentlessness. He is fast, and he does not give up. He is always looking for the takedown. He has good grappling, and he can strike too. He can throw good shots. But as far as weaknesses, he gets rocked a lot.
I have seen a couple of matches where he gets rocked a lot, and then goes for the takedown. So I feel like when I land [my shots], he is going to feel it.
Obviously, I am trying to make my game more well-rounded. I have faced a lot of grapplers in the past, and yeah, I feel like I can neutralize him. I feel like at 61kg, if I hit anybody, they are going to feel it, and they are going to be hurt.
ONE: Would you prefer to rematch ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio, or challenge ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes?
GS: I will be honest with you: I want to face Geje first. I took that bout [in April 2016] at 66kg [bantamweight], and it was my first match ever at that weight. All my other matches before were at 57kg [flyweight]. I felt slow, but that is no excuse.
Geje was the better man that night, and now he has the ONE Interim Flyweight World Title. So I would like to have that rematch, at 61kg. But obviously, I am not looking ahead. Reece McLaren is the only thing I am thinking about right now.
ONE: What do you want to prove in Kuala Lumpur?
GS: I want to prove I am the number one contender. I know that I am, and now, I have to go out there and prove it.
Kuala Lumpur | 9 March | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onevisions18