Former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger Agilan “Alligator” Thani will be keeping his eyes on Eduard “The Landslide” Folayang’s title bout on Friday, 23 November.
The Filipino will square off against Singapore’s Amir Khan (11-3) for the vacant ONE Lightweight World Championship at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, which takes place at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila.
Thani admits he has been a keen admirer of the Team Lakay superstar for years.
“I started watching Folayang after his victory against Shinya Aoki for the lightweight belt,” the 23-year-old Kuala Lumpur native says.
“I love his story, and I also look up to him [in regards to] how hard he trains. The way he beat somebody like Aoki makes me want to train harder each day.”
Folayang defied the odds at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016.
Going up against Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, he defended the Japanese grappling legend’s takedowns well.
In the third round, “Landslide” stunned his rival with a huge flying knee, and then followed up with knees and punches on the ground to force referee Yuji Shimada to stop the contest just 41 seconds into the frame.
Folayang became the new ONE Lightweight World Champion, and was the first athlete to beat Aoki since ONE Championship’s latest signing Eddie Alvarez defeated him in April 2012.
Although the Filipino lost the gold a year later, he has worked his way back to a match for the vacated title.
“It was incredible, and I wish him all the best for his upcoming fight. I think he can get that belt back,” Thani says.
“Alongside him, Martin Nguyen and Angela Lee have also made [the sport] grow into where it is today. Martial arts is now definitely a mainstream sport.”
Thani added that moments like this are what separates ONE Championship from other martial arts promotions worldwide.
“It’s been a very good year for ONE Championship, and I believe with battles such as Nguyen’s or Folayang’s, it is attracting more interest from martial artists worldwide,” he explains.
“At the same time, it opens up the eyes of our Asian athletes to show them that we are a talented bunch, too.”
Thani returns to action on Friday, 7 December at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS, which emanates from the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.