When Alain “The Panther” Ngalani arrived in ONE Championship, he did so as a decorated kickboxer with a spectacular striking skillset.
Now, the Hong Kong-based athlete will return to his striking roots once more as he gets set to compete in ONE Super Series.
Ngalani will take on two-time Superkombat Heavyweight World Champion Tarik Khbabez in a kickboxing bout at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in Macau on 23 June.
It will give the Cameroonian the chance to showcase his spectacular striking without the need to be wary of takedowns, and it should provide a memorable spectacle for fans watching around the world.
Ngalani remains steadfastly in pursuit of ONE Championship gold in mixed martial arts, and recently dropped down from heavyweight to light heavyweight in a bid to chase a World Title.
He says the move down has helped him in that regard – as shown by his unanimous decision victory against Tur-Ochir Ariunbold at ONE: IRON WILL.
“I actually felt really good,” he says.
“With my team, we have been working on different things like my stamina, and fighting on the ground, and it came into play. We are pretty happy with the result.
“It is just encouraging to see that certain things can be improved when you put your mind to it. I was about 6 kilograms lighter than when I was competing at heavyweight, and I felt faster and really fit to go the distance.”
Ngalani has been working hard on the grappling side of his game as he looks to become a better all-round mixed martial artist. While he’s taking a short break from the mats ahead of his ONE Super Series bout with Khbabez, he says the break won’t set him back from his overall training.
If anything, it’ll only make him more eager to hit the mats upon his return.
“I feel like I have been really pushing on the grappling side, and right now I am having a good break to focus on kickboxing,” he explains.
“It is taking my mind off the ground work a little bit, but my team does not think that will affect me too much.
“It will help me to go back and polish my striking technique, and perhaps help me to rest and come back even stronger for jiu-jitsu. I do not think that having a few months off will tarnish anything.
“I am focusing on my striking now, but as soon as I am done, I will get right back to [mixed martial arts]. I am versatile enough that I can move from one to the other, and it keeps things interesting and exciting for me.
Switching from MMA training to purely kickboxing training represents a big change to Ngalani’s regimen, but it’s a necessary switch to ensure he’s 100% ready for his next challenge.
Following the launch of the ONE Super Series, the hulking Hong Kong native now has a new career goal – to become a two-discipline world champion under the ONE Championship banner.
“I am really happy about it, and I have a goal – that is to conquer the ONE Super Series’ kickboxing ranks and to take the world title sometime this year,” he says.
“My ultimate goal is to conquer the light heavyweight division in mixed martial arts, as well. I will be watching Aung La N Sang’s next bout, and I am looking forward to facing him again this year for the rematch to get that World Title.”
Ngalani’s strength in the ONE Championship cage has undoubtedly been his striking, and the 42-year-old star says he’s excited to put his skills on show for the world.
Without the added dimension of takedowns, “The Panther” is clearly excited to be able to fully commit to his strikes without the danger of being put on the mat.
“I am looking forward to it,” he adds.
“No one is going to try and take me down, so I can relax, and I will be able to come out and throw my punches and my kicks as much as I want.
“In previous ONE fights, it has been really difficult, because every time you throw a kick or a punch, you are worrying that in a split-second, I could be taken down. But this time I will be able to trade comfortably without that worry, so there is going to be a lot of sparks!”
And with Macau only a short hop from Ngalani’s home base of Hong Kong, he’s excited to put his skills on show for the world at a venue so close to home.
“It is going to be my first time competing in Macau, and yes, I take Macau as my turf, as I am based next door in Hong Kong,” he says.
“A lot of my fans will come down and watch me compete, so I have to perform to please the crowd. I am very excited about that. I am keen to go there and give one of the best performances of the night.
“This is a good opportunity for everybody to come, and we will make it a celebration for Impakt – not just for my win, but for the gym as a whole.
“I need to start very strong, and I need to make a statement that I am one of the baddest men in kickboxing, and I will show that.
“My plan is to impress everybody, and then look for the World Titles.”