Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai returned to the cage in front of his hometown crowd at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Impact Arena on 24 March, in the hopes of putting a disappointing performance against Rasul Yakhyaev behind him.
The man who paid the price for that mission was Singapore-based Indian Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju. In just 21 seconds, the Thai found himself back on track. That was all it took for Wiratchai to send his opponent crashing to the canvas following a sublime right hook that landed right on the chin of his charging opponent.
The 29-year-old Bangkok hero previously talked about his apprehension to “pull the trigger” last time out, leading him a close decision loss at the hands of Russia’s Yakhyaev in December. This time around, however, there were no such worries.
In this exclusive post-win interview, we caught up with Wiratchai to get his take on the performance, the message he sent to the rest of the lightweight division, and his plans for the immediate future.
ONE Championship: It was a near-perfect performance. How did you feel in the cage this time?
Shannon Wiratchai: I felt much better this time. But actually, like I said before the the event, I hoped that I could try some new things during the match. In training, you can just get warmed up, and go into four or five rounds of sparring easily. But in an actual match, you get warmed up backstage, and can get excited and nervous.
I knew if I could take my time, think in the cage, and control my opponent with more angles, then it was going to be good. It was not bad (laughs). It turned out to be a quick match, and it proves that the way I changed my striking game was good.
ONE: From the opening bell, Rahul came at you fast, and straight into your range. Were you expecting it to go that way?
SW: At the beginning of the match, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. He was moving towards me quickly. I needed to do something first to control the game, so I threw the left kick. It worked.
I could see from his face and his eyes that he did not like that. He gave an interview before the bout saying he thought my ground game was a weak point, so maybe he wanted to put me onto the cage and take me down. That is why he came forward, but he fell into my favorite shot — my right hook!
ONE: The finish came at 21 seconds. Were you surprised at how early you found the knockout?
SW: I was surprised. I was looking in his eyes, and when the hook connected on his chin, he just fell down. It was like cutting a connection, and he was gone. I thought it was going to be longer. Maybe because of the way I throw my right hand, it caught him off guard thinking that my hand is low and my head was open. But that is the way I throw that shot.
ONE: After your decision loss in December, you have bounced back. What message do you think this KO sends to the lightweight division?
SW: I think this could be a message that I am back! I am relaxed, and in control. I can tell everybody in the division that I am ready to climb up again. ONE Championship is going to give me a big step up next time, for sure.
ONE: When do you think you will be ready to compete again?
SW: We have been talking about this, and it looks like they want me to compete again in May. But for me and my team, we think June is the best. I will be facing the top guys, so I need to make sure that I am going to be at the right level to defeat everyone.
I need to respect them (my opponents), and bring my best to win all the matches that are coming up. June would be enough time for me and my team to work together, and figure out how we could be better for the next opponent.
ONE: There are lots of top contenders around, like Timofey Nastyukhin, Ev Ting, and former champ Eduard Folayang. Would you like to face any of them?
SW: I think all those matches are interesting. They are very entertaining, and highly skilled. I have someone in mind, but let’s see.
Timofey is one of the top candidates, but for me, he would be my last choice, because we train together at Tiger Muay Thai & MMA. He is very, very good, and improves all the time, but I would only want to do that if there was no other choice.
ONE: How was the support in Thailand, and do you the feel nation is behind you now more than ever?
SW: I just want to help the Thai fans find out what it takes to be a professional martial artist. I have more positive feelings from the fans after this match. I just hope they are going to stay positive for all of the athletes.
We are always making improvements, and we are always going to develop. If fans want to see better athletes and more Thais at the top level, then I hope they are going to keep supporting them. Nobody is going to get to the top by themselves; everybody has to help them.
ONE: Speaking of other Thai athletes, what did you think about Rika Ishige’s match?
SW: I just watched the match actually, and I thought Rika slightly won. But that is the game. The last half of the match, she started attacking more and looking better. On the other hand, maybe this can be a good thing. Rika is very confident in her striking.
Everybody thinks she is a better ground competitor, but she thinks she is a better striker. This game was pure striking, and she lost, even though it was close. It could be a game changer to make her think more about her career, and which way she should develop.