Roman Kryklia shocked the world when he won the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship with a stunning TKO in his promotional debut, and he’s ready to cement his status as the division’s undisputed king.
That opportunity will come against Dutch-Turkish juggernaut Murat “The Butcher” Aygun in a monstrous top-of-the-bill clash at ONE: BIG BANG, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 4 December.
The Ukrainian sensation feels a sense of duty to deliver in his first title defense after blasting through his longtime rival, Tarik “The Tank” Khbabez, to earn the richest prize in his sport.
“For me, to be the World Champion is of course [a big] responsibility, so in my next fight, I must prove that I’m the best,” Kryklia says.
“The biggest motivation for my training is to prove to everybody that I’m #1 in the light heavyweight division.”
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Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, November 16, 2019
The 29-year-old Gridin Gym representative put on a masterful display against Khbabez at ONE: AGE OF DRAGONS last November. “The Tank” had racked up four straight victories in ONE Super Series, so fans were rightfully blown away when the debutant dispatched him in round two.
However, the tables are turned this time — it’s the newcomer with everything to prove and Kryklia who hopes to keep the belt.
The reigning World Champion knows he must take Aygun seriously, as things can change in the blink of an eye when a combined weight of more than 200 kilograms collides at high speed.
“I think any fight in the light heavyweight division always has some risk because one punch can finish everything,” Kryklia offers.
“In this division, there are very many people who are very strong, fast, and heavy, and they think that they are the strongest, but my coach taught me that you must be clever in the fight — I will try to show you this way of fighting.”
Aygun — an ISKA Super Heavyweight World Champion — has an aggressive, come-forward style like his Dutch countryman Khbabez. His exemplary 16-1 record includes a win over “The Tank” and other top-level strikers such as Errol Zimmerman and Fabio Kwasi.
Kryklia is well aware of the threat that awaits him, yet he won’t be fazed after using his skill and guile to overcome similar challenges before.
“I think Murat is a very similar kickboxer to Tarik Khbabez, who I faced in my previous fight,” the Ukrainian says.
“They have strong hands, and I think in close distance, this is Murat’s main weapon. He throws many punches and many kicks, so I think he will try to come close to me and punch me.”
Unsurprisingly, Kryklia believes he has the answer to “The Butcher’s” fury.
Along with his coach, the legendary Andrei Gridin, he’s molded himself into a smart, technical competitor – the perfect antidote to a marauding, shorter challenger.
“My coach has made a special strategy for this situation,” Kryklia says.
“The main strategy is, of course, to keep distance and keep feeling my opponent. I think this is the main thing. If you feel like you are open and moving, you can do what you want.
“That is the main strategy, but of course I cannot tell you the secrets of my preparation. You can see it in our fight.”
Kryklia would love to finish his first World Title defense the same way he captured the gold, but he’s aware that neither man in this matchup has been knocked out across nearly 70 combined professional contests – and Aygun’s only blemish came via doctor stoppage due to a cut.
So, the reigning ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion is ready to bide his time and attack for a finish when the perfect opportunity presents itself – or play the long game and confidently dismantle his foe over five rounds.
“One of my biggest strengths is not only natural power, but the power inside me,” Kryklia says.
“The fighter’s character is one of the most important things in the fight, especially in the last round, so I always know that I have some reserve power inside my soul.
“Of course, I’m waiting for the moment when I can punch hard and finish the fight, but I always prepare for a hard five-round fight.”