Fresh off a dominant win at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, Malaysia’s own Agilan “Alligator” Thani is excited about the future, as he continues to race towards another shot at the ONE Welterweight World Title.
In his most recent performance, Thani thrilled his hometown crowd at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur with a dominant victory over SFL Welterweight Champion Amitesh Chaubey. He tapped out the Indian with an Americana submission hold in the second round.
With another trademark win under his belt, we sat down to talk to Thani about the match-up with Chaubey, his standing in the welterweight division, and much more.
ONE Championship: Congratulations on your victory. How did you feel being back inside the ONE cage?
Agilan Thani: I felt really calm and composed in there. I was really excited to compete again after a long break, and everything went as planned. It was a good contest. I thought he would rush into me and try to knock me out, but he did not do it.
So, I had to change my strategy a little bit. My coach said he did not rush too much, so always circle to his left side, and then kick his calves. As soon as you see him switch stances, throw the head kick, and then go for the takedown. That is exactly what I did.
ONE: Chaubey taunted you in the opening round, and then again in the second round. Did that throw you off at all?
AT: From where I come from, this is pretty normal, so we do not react to these type of people. We just walk away. I did not really pay attention to it. I was not surprised because I watched all of his matches, and it is something he has done before. So when he did it to me, I was just thinking, ‘This is not going to work.’ I knew it was coming.
ONE: You were dominant on the ground, but what did you think about your striking?
AT: I felt very comfortable. I never got hit, or rocked, or anything. I went off balance a couple of times because I think it was just nerves. Every time he tried to throw a heavy shot or punch, I took it, and nothing hurt me badly. I am just trying to improve every time I compete. I was trying to throw some low kicks, some jabs, just show off everything that I learned.
ONE: You ended up with one of the loudest reactions all night. What did that crowd reaction mean to?
AT: When we did the opening ceremony and the crowd was cheering for me, I was lost in the moment. I was like, ‘If I get into this, I will not be able to compete.’ I had to shut it off, but it was so amazing to hear that so many people loved me.
I heard it again in the opening [of the bout], and then at one point I heard they were screaming my name. Obviously, it felt great. I do not get to see my fans every day cheering my name, so I really get lost in the moment sometimes.
I am doing my best to do my job and influence the right people [in Malaysia] into the right sports. I am not trying to inspire everyone, but if I can inspire somebody, then I am happy to do that.
ONE: Where do you feel like you fit in the welterweight division after a dominant win like that?
AT: That is a question that I do not know the answer to. That is why I told Mitch Chilson afterwards that I will just face whoever they put in front of me, until it is time to get back to the [welterweight world] title. I do not want to rush things. I want to know where my place is, and what I deserve. I will just constantly work towards that.
I have to have the mentality to face whoever they put in front of me. The main thing I learned from facing [Ben] Askren was just learning to focus on the main goal. It is all about being a competitor at your best, putting on a show in front of a big crowd and all your fans and family members. That is what we train for.
Instead, a lot of people get focused on money and titles, [and if] you are not getting paid enough, you start complaining. Then you lose focus on your opponent, you lose focus on the contest, and slowly everything goes downhill. I am just going to face whoever they put in front of me. I am happy with what I am doing. I am just going to keep training harder, and get better.
ONE: So what do you think is next for you, and when would you like to compete again?
AT: Obviously, as an athlete, there are a lot of ideas in my head. As soon as I won, I was telling my manager, who is my girlfriend, ‘Who do think they will give me next?’ And she said: ‘Maybe you should get punched in the face harder next time so you will forget these things.’
I do not care anymore. I just want to wait to see who they want to give me. As for when is a good time to be back in the cage, I would like to come back in June.
ONE: Lastly, you recently visited Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih as part of the Global Citizen initiative. How was that experience?
AT: It was great. This time, Global Citizen brought us to my hometown in Kuala Lumpur. It is close to my house. It was awesome. Most of the kids there stay close to me. We had so many things in common. We got so close, so fast. It was an awesome experience.
I did not know that some of those kids at that school actually stay right behind my house. I had not met them before, but I used to run on the street by my house, and I would see the teachers from that school. It was great.
There are a lot of people in need of help, and that is the reason we need organizations like Global Citizen to help our children. At some point in time we will always lose hope. That’s the moment when people like us come in and push these kids back to where they belong. They can do more than they think.