Agilan Thani's Love For BJJ Gave Him Confidence And A Career

Agilan Thani KLDC9521

Agilan “Alligator” Thani’s relationship with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has made him into a martial artist, an athlete, and a mentor.

He discovered his passion the first time he stepped into Monarchy MMA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when he was just 16 years old and hungry to learn everything he could about martial arts.

When Thani began training, he was not trying to learn one particular discipline. He wanted to learn them all, but BJJ classes were most easily accessible, so Thani dived in with both feet to immerse himself into the grappling culture.

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Before long, Thani transitioned into his career as a mixed martial artist, but things did not start out quite so smoothly.

Training under Bruno Barbosa, he was first exposed to the challenges of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through a group of training partners from Russia who had followed their coach to Malaysia.

“I got beat up badly,” Thani explains. “When I was 16, I did so much, and I had a little bit of knowledge, and there were white belts who had just come from Russia or Kyrgyzstan.

“So when they came in, I was just getting beat up every day. I would go home crying pretty much every day.

“One day, I beat one guy, and then another guy, and then after six months, all the Russians were like, ‘You’re good, brother.’ They were like, ‘This guy is dangerous.'”

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The resilience and confidence Thani gained from those early grappling sessions only inspired him to do more and more.

Promotions through the belt-ranking system were not at the forefront of his mind – he just wanted to learn.

“I just wanted to become better,” Thani says. “I just had a mindset that, if I could survive that, I could achieve something.

“It was a good feeling. I didn’t realize it that much back then, I was just focused on becoming better, and better, and better.”

During the seven years since Thani first set foot on a mat, he has never stopped training. As he climbs the welterweight ranks in ONE Championship, he is dedicated to climbing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ladder to aid his in-cage career as well.

A few months ago, Thani was promoted to brown belt by Barbosa, who had recently returned to Malaysia. While every promotion has been special, Thani admits that one felt especially good because his teacher saw just how much he had progressed.

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“Most of my other promotions came from other professors who came to visit, or when I go to America,” Thani explains.

“This time my professor promoted me himself, so that was quite a big thing. It’s like a championship belt already.”

Despite his high rank, and thousands of hours on the mats – drilling, practicing and rolling – he still cannot get enough of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What’s more, he still has that same sense of awe for the beauty in the simplicity of the art.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old. I like jiu-jitsu because it gives me the competitive spirit and I love the moves,” Thani says.

“I feel like I’m doing something impressive even when I’m just passing guard – just because I’m able to do so many things on the ground that I wasn’t able to do back in the day. It really excites me doing it.”

These days, Thani has gone from student to teacher as a BJJ instructor at Monarchy.

He says he is staggered when he thinks about the evolution he has made – to the point where he is now passing along that knowledge to the next generation of martial artists.

“I’ll teach people a guard pass, and they’ll be blown away. It’s fun,” Thani says.

“I only teach white and blue belts, but the white belts are always fun.”

He loves his role as a teacher, but Thani makes it clear that his own education is far from finished.

In fact, he is doing such a good job of developing his students, even they can teach him a thing or two.

“I always feel like, no matter how much I learn, there’s always something new I can learn,” Thani says.

“Some new submission that I get caught in – I have blue belts in my gym that will catch me off guard and submit me, and I’ll ask them, ‘How do you do this?'”

Perhaps the best part about Thani’s role as an instructor is that he is able to educate his fellow Malaysians. That is something he is extremely passionate about, as he wants the discipline to become popular all over his homeland.

He would also like to take the next step in his grading, to make a little bit of history, and earn a rank only a handful of his compatriots have reached.

“I want to continue learning jiu-jitsu and hopefully reach black belt, and keep spreading jiu-jitsu throughout Malaysia,” Thani states.

“We don’t have many Malaysian black belts. We only have three black belts in Malaysia – that’s it. I hope to get a black belt, and promote jiu-jitsu in Malaysia as well.”

To reach that goal, Thani has years more training and tuition ahead of him.

While he continues his mission on the mats, he will use all of his jiu-jitsu skills in the cage as he targets the ONE Welterweight World Title.

The next test he must pass on his way to that goal comes this Friday, 7 December at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS, as he takes on Kiamrian Abbasov in the co-main event at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.

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