Anatpong “Mak” Bunrad’s injury setbacks have kept him out of the cage for the best part of a year and a half.
As with any combatant, he has been itching to make his return, and obtain the fulfilment only stepping into battle can provide.
The Thai mixed martial artist will finally get that opportunity against a familiar foe at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES on Friday, 26 May at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Bunrad (5-2) will take on Team Lakay’s Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio (8-5), a man he knows well after the pair clashed to a hard-fought split decision back in 2015.
For the 28-year-old Eustaquio, it is a shot at redemption, but Bunrad does not have that stimulus, being the victor in their first bout. Instead, he is focused on reintroducing his name to ONE Championship fans, and showing them what they have been missing while he was away.
“I am really happy to be back, and I will give everything to win. It is not just a comeback. Fans will not be disappointed,” the Phuket Top Team flyweight states. “It is a rematch, and for me, I am coming back after an injury, so the mental motivation is there for us both.”
Bunrad will also be driven by his first ONE Championship defeat at the hands of Gianni Subba in December 2015. Following back-to-back wins, being at the wrong end of a split decision from the judges was hard to take.
Instead of letting it eat him up, however, “Mak” has used it to fuel his progress. In order to start climbing the rankings in a tough flyweight division, constant improvement is always necessary. He may not have been able to compete, but Bunrad has spent time in the gym nonetheless, getting better in all aspects.
“I am a complete mixed martial artist,” he offers. “I am always working on my weaknesses so I can be as complete as possible.”
He comes into the bout in Singapore with the upper hand in one sense, having a win over his forthcoming adversary, but whether he will come back as sharp as he left is a question that can only be answered on the night of the bout.
While there was not much separating them in their first encounter, Eustaquio’s increased activity and familiarity with the cage could give him the edge he needs. After all, ”Gravity" fought three times in 2016, going 2-1 whilst “Mak” was on the sidelines.
The hours in the gym, however, are what Bunrad believes will pay dividends, even if the feeling of stepping out in front of thousands of screaming fans will be once again unfamiliar.
“I am training hard, of course. I fight to win,” the proud Thai says. “I do not really have pressure at this moment, but I try to give everything I have to be on top.”