Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai is a martial artist who pulls no punches, even with himself.
Last December, at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD in his native Bangkok, Thailand, he dropped a unanimous decision to Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev in a bout that could have earned him a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
However, the Thai knows when he returns to the cage on Saturday, 24 March, at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, he will have already benefitted from the opportunity to build again from the ground up.
“I feel that I needed more time,” the 29-year-old admits.
“Even when we were waiting for the decision, in my mind I thought I could have done enough to win, but my face looked so sad, as I knew I was not ready to proceed to a title shot. This was a bad match for me.”
Yakhyaev used a combination of takedowns and heavy punches to edge out the Thai in a calculated three-round affair. But also, “OneShin” did not pull the trigger in his usual manner, seemingly hesitant to do so.
It was a mix of unfortunate circumstances for Wiratchai, who admitted he felt doubt creeping into his mind as the contest got underway, made worse by the fact that his preparation had been somewhat disjointed.
“I did not get a chance to solve my own problems before the match,” explains Wiratchai, who flew home to Bangkok from his training camp in Phuket following an injury, and then failed to get the sparring rounds necessary to acquire his traditional sharpness.
“I was moving, and setting up my shots. I saw the opportunities that I would normally take, but on that day, I just felt like I could not do it. I saw his reaction, and the openings were there, but my head was saying I could not take it, that if I went in, then something bad was going to happen. That’s the worst thing, worse than losing the match.”
Wiratchai has regularly shocked and dazed opponents with his dashes inside the distance to land a punch, kick, or knee strike. His intricate knowledge of the striking game, and acceptance of techniques from all kinds of martial arts, have made him unpredictable and effective.
However, without the ability to take advantage of these key weapons, he was left trailing behind when his Russian adversary pushed the pace. Fortunately for “OneShin,” as cerebral as he is, he has been tackling the issue ever since, in the hope of returning to his winning ways in front of his hometown fans.
On 24 March, he will have a chance to make that epic rebound.
The Thai warrior will meet Singapore-based Indian Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju, who boasts a 5-1 record, with four of those wins coming via stoppage.
Wiratchai has been working on his problems at the Bangkok Fight Lab, before heading to Tiger Muay Thai for the final stretch of his training camp, all working towards his goal of victory, and exorcising the demons that remain from his last defeat.
“Last time was a mistake, but I have worked with my team to solve it,” he says. “The main thing I want to show is my improvements. I am not thinking about doing the same things I did before.”
Raju, a Juggernaut Fight Club product who makes his promotional debut at the show, would love to spoil the party, but Wiratchai is feeling much more confident now that some of the pressure has been alleviated.
A win streak, a potential world title shot, and the weight of expectation from the fans has been taken off his shoulders. Now, he can focus on getting better without all of the pressure.
“I will not underestimate him, but I am quite relaxed about this match,” Wiratchai says.
“Rasul was Russian, with super strength, good wrestling, and bombs in his hands. Rahul is good and technical, but compared to Rasul, I think they are quite different. This match is more about how I bounce back.
“He (Rahul) is a good scrambler, strong on the ground, and never afraid of exchanging punches. But I want to win, and return to facing the top guys again [so I can] get back in the title picture.”
If Wiratchai can get past the demon that haunted him against Yakhyaev, then it will bring back the “OneShin” of old that put together a six-bout win streak.
Bangkok | 24 March | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onewill18