Agilan “Alligator” Thani has had to deal with adversity, but his warrior spirit has never allowed him to back down from a challenge.
The Malaysian has shown courage to face the tests his life and career has thrown at him head-on so he could become one of his nation’s most successful martial arts athletes.
That mentality has pushed him to where he is today, and it is powering him ahead of the biggest martial arts event history, where he will face Yushin “Thunder” Okami at ONE: CENTURY PART I on Sunday, 13 October.
“Courage means a lot to me because I needed the courage to move forward one too many times,” the former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger says.
“I had to deal with a lot of issues, even when I was a small boy, and without the right mindset, I would not have been where I am today.”
The Monarchy MMA representative had to show bravery to rise above the bullies that tormented him during his school years. As a 139-kilogram teenager, Thani was the victim of cruel abuse, so he committed to a life in martial arts to turn his life around.
After he started training, he wanted to spend as much time as he could at the gym to immerse himself in his new passion, but he experienced some resistance from his father.
“I went to work at Monarchy as a cleaner, and my dad did not like my choice,” the 24-year-old reveals.
“He asked me why I was working at a job which didn’t pay much and pointed out several jobs which paid more, and didn’t require me to work at odd hours.”
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Money, however, was never a motivating factor for the young Thani. His happiness was more important, and he speaks with pride about how he stuck to his principles.
By doing so, he stayed on track to head toward a career in the Circle.
“I needed the courage to explain to my dad and just live with it. When you are keen into what you want, you will know how important it is to find the determination and grit to move forward,” Thani stresses.
“There is no fun in doing things which aren’t going to make you feel good about yourself, and while I was working in Monarchy, I felt very good about myself.
“I was working hard every day, and Samir [Noury Mrabet, gym founder] was constantly putting the pressure on me. He wanted me to lose weight, to improve my overall game, and so much more. All these things shaped me into the guy I am today.”
All of “Alligator’s” hard work took him to ONE, where he quickly seized the chance to challenge for a World Title after he built a 7-0 record with a 100 percent finish rate.
His perfect run ended there, and although he was heartbroken to lose, he found the strength to pick himself up, dust himself off, and begin to work toward the top again.
“It took a lot of courage to come back. But then, I realized that I’ve been doing it every single time of my life,” he says.
“I told myself that if I fail once, I need to find the spirit, courage, and mentality to keep on grinding repeatedly until I’ve achieved what I set out to in my career.”
The Sentul native returned to winning ways, but soon hit a low point in his career when the disappointment of two losses was compounded by struggles with his physical and mental health.
However, once again, Thani had the inner strength to work through the pain and recover to the point that he could make his comeback on the global stage.
“My drive at this point was to believe in myself that I was capable of overcoming these situations. The determination and courage I found back then is something I stand by until today,” he says.
“Every day, I constantly try to prove to myself that I am capable of doing everything and anything at any time.”
As soon as he recovered from his surgery, The Home Of Martial Arts had an opponent ready for him in a bout that presented another opportunity to show his courage, and the chance to show he belonged among the elite athletes in the welterweight division.
“Alligator” was booked to meet Japanese-Korean martial arts icon Yoshihiro “Sexy Yama” Akiyama in June, and although he admits he was wracked with anxiety about the task he faced – particularly coming off two defeats – he rose to the occasion.
“I had so much fear going up against Akiyama. He’s been in the game for a long time, and his name is so big,” he admits.
“Even in the hotel in China, everyone was surprised that I was the man who was going to take on Akiyama. People who met me in the lobby were doubting me, but I knew I couldn’t doubt myself at the very least.”
Thani silenced those doubters with a gutsy display to win a thriller by unanimous decision, and that set him up for a contest with another giant of the Japanese scene – Okami.
“Thunder” is another imposing figure to face in the Circle, but “Alligator” believes his courage can power him to victory against an experienced competitor once again.
“Yes, I believe so. I know what I’m capable of, and it’s not like I don’t have the skill set or the years behind me,” Thani says.
“I’ve been in this sport since I was 16, and I’ve always learned that I cannot let myself down. I want to go to Japan and return with a good outcome.”
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization in history has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.