Expect Agilan Thani to be all fired up when he steps into the ONE Championship cage on 13 July.
Thani returns to action in the main event in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER. He will take on Swedish star Zebaztian Kadestam in a battle of welterweight contenders.
The 22-year-old says he is ready to shoulder the responsibility of headlining the event on home soil.
“I’m just happy I get to be in the main event in Malaysia,” he says. “I didn’t know this was going to happen.”
“Alligator” has never lost a bout on home soil, and can take that remarkable home win rate to 7-0 with victory over Kadestam.
A win would almost certainly position Thani in prime position for a shot at the vacant ONE Welterweight World Title.
His most recent outing saw him submit Amitesh Chaubey in the second round as he extended his overall pro record to 8-1 with seven finishes to his name.
“I think I did very well in my last fight,” he says.
“I prepared very well for it – I didn’t kill myself throughout the camp. I listened a lot to my coaches and my team, and the outcome was very good.”
Thani has been preparing for his bout at Monarchy MMA, where he is pushed to the limit every day, but he says the true test of his skills will come when he faces Kadestam inside the cage.
“I don’t see my progress skyrocketing, because I’m training with the same group of guys every day,” he explains.
“Even though I am improving, my guys are improving as well, so I don’t see much changes in my game. When I fight, things just come to me, and that is when I see how much I have improved.
“For now, I only see myself as good as my last fight. I don’t know how good I am going to be against Kadestam – I am just waiting to test myself.”
Some athletes would feel the added pressure of competing on home soil, but Thani says he will stay grounded, even though he knows he is facing a top-level opponent.
“I think it’s something I learned throughout my career. To just go with the flow, because you’re never sure what is going to happen,” he explains.
“I don’t know what makes someone a big step up in competition. After all, we are all fighting towards the same goals.
“If I consider him higher in the ranks than me, I’m putting myself down, and I don’t think you should do that. I’m going to fight for what I want, and he’s going to fight for what he wants, and whoever is the bravest, the toughest, the strongest, and the smartest is going to win.”
Thani’s bout offers a battle between two of ONE’s premier welterweight talents, and the Malaysian says he is well aware of Kadestam’s skills. His debut knockout of Luis “Sapo” Santos is impossible to forget.
“Alligator” believes he is ready for the challenge of facing the Swede, though.
“I know one thing for sure – when I fight him, he is going to have more confidence than most of the fighters in the division,” he states.
“He was the only guy who went two rounds with Askren. He is going to have more confidence than all the guys in ONE Championship.
“I see he is a very confident guy in what he is doing, and in his previous fights, he showed he has jiu-jitsu. When you fight someone whom you think is an icon or a big star, you get star struck.
“Sometimes, you don’t want to do anything when you fight someone like Askren. That’s what could have happened with him too. But I think he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”
Competing on home soil, and matched against a dangerous opponent, Thani says he is ready to rise to the occasion and produce a thrilling spectacle for the fans in Kuala Lumpur.
“Yeah, it should be, because I want to fight this guy badly,” he says.
“He can give me another step up in my career. If I fight him, I get the chance to fight someone better than him. That’s what will get me closer to my goals.
“My goal is not just to be the champion. My goal is to test myself against the best fighters out there.”