Russian warrior Rasul Yakhyaev returns to the ONE Championship cage after a two-year absence, looking for a second chance to make a good first impression.
Yakhyaev competed for ONE Championship once before, but his promotional debut saw him lose out to undefeated Hawaiian prospect Lowen Tynanes in December 2015.
Now, after a spell competing in Europe, Yakhyaev returns to Asia looking to kickstart a run of success, starting at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD on 9 December, when he takes on Thai hero Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I have only good feelings,” the 26-year-old said.
“I am very motivated for this match, and I am training hard. This will be an important match, the match of the night, and this boosts my motivation.”
Yakhyaev’s one and only appearance in the ONE Championship cage resulted in a third-round submission loss, and the sting of that defeat in Cambodia still remains two years on.
“My motivation for this match is very strong because my latest ONE Championship bout was not as good as I planned,” he admitted.
“I will try not to repeat my previous mistake in Cambodia, where everything — food, acclimatisation — was alien to me.
“I want my body to adapt well. This is most important for me now, approaching this bout at 100 per cent.”
Yakhyaev brings a strong grappling base to the cage, and says that his seasoned mat skills should give him the advantage over Wiratchai, whose striking game has made him one of the most eye-catching talents in ONE Championship today.
“I think his weakness is wrestling,” the said.
“If you look deeper, you will find even more weaknesses. He is slow in the match, as I saw, but he strikes well and hard. I think he has weaknesses in wrestling, standing up, and against the cage.”
Wiratchai is heading into the bout in stellar form, having won each of his last six bouts. Of his eight career victories, six have come via spectacular finish. His spectacular performances, coupled with his larger-than-life arena entrances, have seen him become one of the most popular Thai martial arts stars.
Despite his opponent’s impeccable form, Yakhyaev is convinced his skillset is more than a match for Wiratchai. One reason for this, he says, is due to the strength of training partners he works with at Berkut Fight Team in Chechnya.
“Another reason for my confidence is the fact that I train in my gym with very powerful guys, both standing up and on the ground,” he adds.
“Working with them gives me more self-confidence. They are very good guys, not worse than him, and other good athletes.”
Now, armed with newly-found confidence and ready to prove himself second time around, Yakhyaev says he’s ready to defeat an athlete who he believes will bring the best out of him.
“We came across each other, and he is a funny guy. There is no aggression, nothing bad in him,” he said after meeting his opponent at the event’s press conference earlier this year.
“I have seen only two of his matches. He is a very interesting martial artist. I look forward to competing with him.”