The Frenchman will meet his Russian rival in the semifinals of the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, 16 August following an amazing victory over “The Boxing Computer” Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex that shocked the martial arts world in May.
Now that he has eliminated a legend, Sana he is confident that he can overcome any challenge en route to the tournament crown.
“Nothing will stop me. Nothing will prevent me from winning this tournament,” asserts the three-time Muay Thai and Kickboxing World Champion.
In the quarterfinals, “AK47” faced a man who had defeated him in 2013, and many fans expected history to repeat itself in the rematch at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON.
However, Sana dropped the Thai superstar in the first round on his way to a convincing decision win and immediately marked himself as a favorite for the most talked-about tournament in combat sports.
“The strategy was to step forward, walk him down and put a high rhythm on him, and this strategy paid off,” he recalls.
“I imposed my rhythm on him from the first round. I felt he was uncomfortable, so my team advised me to keep going on this way.
“We had prepared very seriously [for Yodsanklai], and were confident that we were ready, so the decision was the continuity of all the preparation that we did. We were very satisfied to get to the semifinal of the world’s biggest tournament.”
His upcoming rival also put on a brilliant performance that night when he defeated Germany’s Enriko “The Hurricane” Kehl after three fast-paced rounds.
Sana knows that the four-time kickboxing World Champion will be a formidable foe in Bangkok, but he believes he has too much skill and too much heart to be beaten.
“Dzhabar Askerov is a great champion who has been in the game for a long time,” the Parisian explains.
“He is an opponent who is like me – very resilient, who doesn’t do things halfway, who [fights hard], who has rhythm, who punches – so I hope we’re going to have a beautiful fight, and that we’re going to fight hard.
“For me, I have more in all areas, and especially my heart. I’m going to fight as usual. I’m going to attack from the beginning, strike hard with huge pressure, and then we will see what happens.
“I am working a lot with my fists and knees, my flow, my rhythm. I am prepared to fight three rounds at full power.”
Shortly before the World Grand Prix began, an extra incentive for victory was given to the eight competitors in the form of a US$1 million grand prize.
Although Sana says the opportunity to become known as the best kickboxer in the world is his primary motivation, the chance to provide for his family with a huge windfall is a welcome bonus that has only increased his will to win.
“Obviously this million dollars added spice to the competition, but originally, we don’t fight for money. We fight because it’s our passion – because fighting is in our blood,” states “AK47.”
“Still, the million dollars is a nice big surprise. I already had the intention to win this tournament, and with this million, I’ll be unstoppable.
“One million dollars, financially, is the accomplishment of an entire life. I come from a very modest family… [so] I think it would be an achievement to supply the needs of my parents who had it hard, and worked hard since they were very young for my whole family.”
The ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals are SET! Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Smokin' Jo Nattawut Samy Sana vs. Dzhabar Askerov : Check local listings for global TV broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, July 12, 2019
Before he can get his hands on a check for that life-changing amount of money, Sana first has to defeat Askerov to book his place in the final at ONE: CENTURY against Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan or “Smokin” Jo Nattawut – who will also compete in Bangkok.
Sana expects a thrilling battle, but he can only see his hand being raised at the end of it as he moves one step closer to glory.
“Dzhabar, I hope you will be ready on 16 August because we’re going to set fire to the stadium, we’re going to have a crazy struggle, and we will see what you have got in your stomach.”