Alain “The Panther” Ngalani hung up his gloves and was happy in his retirement from active combat sports competition.
That changed, however, when ONE Championship entered his life and relit his fire in 2013.
With a deal on the table from the world’s largest martial arts organization, the Cameroon-born striking specialist turned to a new sport and has maintained that enthusiasm for the last seven years.
“I took a few years off. I wasn’t planning to fight again. I was okay, until I got hooked by the mixed martial arts vibe,” he reveals.
“I was always watching the sport from the corner of my eye. I was never really interested, but after seeing ONE Championship, I had my eyes on them.
“When I got a call from them and was offered a contract, I felt excited. I wanted to try something different. That was a fantastic decision because from there on what happened was awesome. I couldn’t have expected more.”
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He was set to face Egypt’s Mahmoud Hassan at ONE: CHAMPIONS & WARRIORS at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia on 13 September 2013.
It was the night that turned the happily-retired World Champion back into a committed and dedicated competitor.
“This all led to the fight with Mahmoud,” the 43-year-old recalls. “He was a big guy, strong, and very confident. I remember [standing] face-to-face with him at the weigh-ins. It was very heated, and he promised to finish me.”
When “The Panther” entered the Istora Senayan on event night, the excitement rushed back to him – but this time, it was on a whole new level.
This was a massive stage with a fervent crowd, but the charismatic Hong Kong resident was made for these moments.
“When I got to the arena, it was packed and huge unlike anything I had seen before,” the hulk admits.
“As an athlete, we have this thing — the nerves kick in, and you have excitement, fear, anticipation, and expectation. It’s just a crazy feeling.
“I was really pumped up. It was my first fight in ONE. I wanted to win, but I didn’t just want to win. I wanted to win in a spectacular way.
“That has always been my thing anyway – to be extravagant, to be a bit extra, and to enjoy myself and have fun. That was my state of mind at that point.”
Buoyed by the jubilant support in the Indonesian capital, “The Panther” quite literally exploded into the Circle with a cartwheel and a backflip, as he tried to find an outlet for his buzz.
When the opening bell rang, Ngalani wasted no time at all. He chopped away at his Egyptian rival with some hard low kicks, and then, with just 31 seconds on the clock, he threw a spinning back kick and knocked Hassan out.
The shot graces highlight reels to this very day, and it showed the world just what “The Panther” was capable of.
“I was very confident when I got in there. I was very calm about it. There was no fear, no anger, nothing. I felt good,” he remembers.
“I tried him with a low kick. Then, I threw a second low kick and he countered me with his straight right, so I stepped back.
“The timing was perfect and the distance was perfect — the spinning back kick had to go. So I threw it and I felt the connection. I knew I just had to follow him, so I went, I followed up, and I finished it.”
It was a perfect debut in his new sport and his new promotional home. Ngalani was ecstatic, and once he knew the bout was over, he expressed his emotion to the fans.
“I saluted the crowd. Never before in my kickboxing fights did I salute the crowd that way,” he admits. “I just reacted. It was the moment, the vibe, and the feeling that I had, and how I could express my feeling right there.”
Now, seven years later, Ngalani is a mainstay in The Home Of Martial Arts, and one of the organization’s most popular athletes.
That successful partnership first came together on that night in Jakarta, and “The Panther” still regards it as one of the most defining moments of his storied career as a martial artist.
“I think it is one of my most memorable fights – not just because of the fight itself, but the whole package,” he offers.
“In my first fight, I had to impress. I beat him in a few seconds, made a fantastic impression, and the highlight reel is still one of the best, so I was very grateful for that fight and my performance.”
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