“Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman had a memorable ONE Championship debut, but it was his second bout in the world’s largest martial arts organization that he will remember forever.
In a classic match-up of striker vs. grappler, who will adapt and overcome to take the victory?Kuala Lumpur | 9 March | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onevision18
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, March 3, 2018
In February 2017, merely five months following his first promotional appearance, he returned to his native Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to face three-time BJJ Champion Eduardo Novaes at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS.
The 23-year-old Bali MMA product is normally cool, calm, and collected on event day, but as he warmed up backstage in Stadium Negara, he was noticeably tense.
“I was so nervous,” he remembers.
“I was [freaking out] so hard backstage, and I still did not have good eyes. I did not have my eye surgery yet, so I was still wearing contacts. I took them out, and I could not see anything, so I was [freaking out].
“Everything inside of me was just a mess. I was so nervous. I could not walk.”
Once his entrance music hit the loudspeakers, however, all of the trepidation that was festering inside of him instantly disappeared.
“After my song played, I walked out to the cage, and it all went away,” he says.
“Before that, it was just a train wreck. But when I stepped into the cage, I felt pretty normal. I did not feel nervous anymore.”
In Novaes, he was competing against a third-degree BJJ black belt who trained with other World Champions at Evolve in Singapore. The Brazilian, then 36, was making his mixed martial arts debut, but his lack of experience would come to haunt him.
The younger “Jungle Cat” — a MIMMA Champion with a 12-1 amateur background in the sport — used his veteran poise to his advantage.
When the opening bell sounded, Muhammad walked down his adversary with a dizzying assortment of strikes.
Novaes desperately tried to drag the local favorite to the canvas, but the Malaysian defended well and kept the bout upright. “Jungle Cat” continued to push a frantic pace, and he battered his foe with punches, kicks, and the occasional knee.
The action slowed down in the second round, but Muhammad was more calculated with his attack. He tried baiting his Brazilian rival, and often connected with superb counterstriking, which led to the finish.
“I was just trying to find how to hit him cleanly,” the Kuala Lumpur native explains.
“So I kept throwing [strikes], and responded to his strikes. I threw a left body kick, and then I saw his hand was down.
“I was playing around a little bit, and I threw it again, and then I threw a left hand right away. That kind of rocked him. I was going, ‘Should I chase him or not?’ because his hand was still up.
“But I saw his hand was all the way up, and he was not defending his body. So I just threw the hardest kick I could, and he fell down.”
The end came at the 2:50 mark of the second round, giving Muhammad the first TKO — and stoppage win — of his professional career.
For “Jungle Cat,” the victory proved to the whole world that he deserved to be in The Home Of Martial Arts. Also, it settled any doubt he may have had in his own mind.
“I just wanted to show that I am one of the strongest fighters in Malaysia,” he says.
“It was crazy too, because I kept imagining me doing that four weeks before the fight. I wanted to knock him out, and I wanted to run out of the cage to my cornermen. I always imagined that certain moment, and it happened. It was such a crazy moment.”
Muhammad has a chance to create another unforgettable moment on Saturday, 8 September.
Should he become the first man to beat the undefeated Chinese warrior, then “Jungle Cat” would have a new highlight in his professional mixed martial arts career.
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast