Malaysia’s Agilan “The Alligator” Thani has quickly established himself as one of the world’s best welterweight martial artists.
The 22-year-old martial arts standout who grew up from the rough streets of Sentul has become widely respected for his relentless pace and suffocating ground attack, which ultimately elevated him to a shot at the ONE Welterweight World Championship in May 2017.
However, it did not go his way as Thani suffered his first professional career loss at the hands of ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren of the United States.
Thani was forced to wave the white flag by Askren in the first round with an arm-triangle choke to keep the welterweight title around his waist.
“When I vied for the title last year, there was a tremendous outpour of support. Of course, I was so sad that I wasn’t able to bring home the prestigious world title. Even though I lost, there were still a lot of people who extended their encouragement that really uplifted me,” Thani sentimentally recalled.
With the drive to reinsert his name into the winner’s column, Thani chose not to wallow over his setback to Askren as he jumped right back into action by squaring off with Egyptian stalwart Sherif “The Shark” Mohamed at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in front of a hometown crowd three months later.
Showing off new skills and techniques that he learned from training with the world-famous Team Quest, Thani scored a unanimous decision victory over Mohamed to place himself back on the winning track.
Even though he authored one of the most dominant performances of the night at that event, Thani admitted that his cage encounter against Mohamed held a little extra significance.
Thani thoroughly routed Mohamed in dominant fashion over the course of three rounds to earn a unanimous decision, but it was the first time that he had never been past the second round as he had finished every opponent by either knockout or submission before then.
“I trained so hard for that camp, and I realized that if your mind is not there, the training is just useless. [So for that] the last match-up with Mohamed, all I wanted to do was to perform, and perform at my best level,” he shared.
“I am happy with what I did in the last bout. But if I got the finish, I would have been even happier. Finishing the bout is the best feeling in the whole world. You just made a man quit. I just want to finish my opponent as quickly as possible. But if it goes 15 minutes, I will take it,” Thani added.
Thani eyes to make a lasting impression in his return to the ONE Championship cage on 9 March as he is scheduled to face promotional newcomer Amitesh Chaubey on the undercard of ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, which takes place at Kuala Lumpur’s state-of-the-art showground of Axiata Arena.
“It feels great to be competing again in front of my countrymen. Every time I step outside the curtains and walk towards the cage, I feel the energy from the home crowd. Every roar from my countrymen gives me the adrenaline that I need for my match. It brings out the best in me,” he stated.
Chaubey, an SFL Welterweight Champion, is a boxer from India and known as an aggressive knockout artist.
In addition, Chaubey has displayed some grappling expertise in the past as he has a few submission victories to his name.
“I watched a couple of his bouts, and he has a very big overhand right. He is a very naturally strong guy. I will not underestimate him. He is a very good, quality opponent, and I am just hoping to put on a show for everyone and show my best against him,” Thani said of his opponent.
With Askren deciding to call it a day after successfully defending the belt against Shinya Aoki last November, Thani is training harder than ever to show he deserves another chance at the belt.
“I am training all aspects of the game to achieve my goal — to win against my opponent and be one step closer to getting back to a world title shot. I am not treating this match lightly,” he declared.
Thani stressed that he still has his sights on the ONE Welterweight World Championship, but he asserted that defeating the toughest athletes in the division will get him closer to the gold-plated strap that he craves.
“I want to beat the best guys. I just want to win and move forward,” he said. “I just want to keep competing [against] the best so that I can win every match, and eventually get my way back to the title.”