When martial artists tell you they were inspired by movies, it’s never a big surprise. Often, the classic martial arts movies of Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme are referenced as inspirations.
Alain “The Panther” Ngalani gave a different answer, naming Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard”.
“When I was a teenager, I watched that movie, and I thought it was the perfect thing,” he told ONE Championship.
“Bodyguards can look good, be cool, and protect others. It was my dream at the time.”
Rather than just finding the storyline inspirational, Ngalani actually followed in the footsteps of Kevin Costner’s titular character before realising that it wasn’t quite as glamorous as the movie portrayed.
“It was amazing that I used my skill in martial arts to get a job,” he said.
“I could train, and use my physique to protect other people.
“It did not turn out like in the movie, though. There was more to it than just the glamour.”
While working as a bodyguard, Ngalani travelled across the world and earned what he described as a “nice living”. And he cherished the relationships he built during that time, including one long-standing client and her young family.
“There was a lady that I was a bodyguard to at one point, and she was a very nice person,” he said.
“I got to develop a relationship with her children, and even today we are still in touch. We still talk, and she is very proud of what I went to do, and am doing. Her children, we are still friends. They come and visit me. We are like family.
“There were one or two times where I had to demonstrate my skills to protect her, and these are memories I keep to this today. Because of her, I loved my job at the time, and I will never forget that.”
While there were enjoyable moments, Ngalani’s desire to compete never left him, and he eventually quit the profession to chase his dream as a professional martial artist. He’d already captured several African heavyweight kickboxing titles, but he was thirsty for more.
“I had not achieved all my goals yet,” he said.
“Being a bodyguard was one goal, but it was not everything. There was no stopping me until I got everything that I wanted.
“I did not want to go further than just protecting people. There were a few incidents that put me off. I did not want to hurt anyone. That was not the point for me, so I was glad that I did it, and glad that I stopped and moved on.
“Altogether it was a very good experience, but doing it for a certain number of years, I missed the competing,” he states.
“It was the right choice for me to leave that behind, and travel the world competing instead.”
Ngalani moved to Hong Kong, became a gym owner and world champion kickboxer before joining ONE Championship on his latest quest for championship gold.
Now, after taking the decision to drop down from heavyweight to light-heavyweight, Ngalani is ready to return to action in Bangkok, Thailand at ONE: IRON WILL against Mongolia’s Ariunbold Tur-Ochir on Saturday 24 March.
With a win, he plans to earn a rematch against two-division ONE World Champion Aung La N Sang for his light heavyweight belt, and further a long career filled with success.