The wait is finally over for Iranian heavyweight sensation Amir Aliakbari.
This Friday, 5 March, the Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion will make his long-awaited promotional debut against undefeated South Korean phenom “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won in the main event of ONE: FISTS OF FURY II.
Aliakbari was previously scheduled to make his grand premiere on the global stage at ONE: BIG BANG in December.
Though he couldn’t display his world-class mixed martial arts skills that night, the Iranian remained positive and continued to train.
“It was a little upsetting these cancelations happened,” the 36-year-old says.
“I was at the top of my game. I was mentally and physically prepared, but my training has not stopped. My morale has not wavered.”
With his debut finally approaching, Aliakbari is more motivated than ever. Plus, he a chance to earn some payback for his compatriot and AAA Team training partner, Mehdi Barghi.
Barghi faced Kang at ONE: UNBREAKABLE III in December, and he appeared to have the upper hand when he took down “Mighty Warrior” early and unleashed devastating ground-and-pound.
But the South Korean weathered the storm, eventually swept his rival, secured the back mount, and rained down punches until referee Yuji Shimada stopped the bout with just ten seconds remaining in the opening round.
That impressive TKO marked Kang’s fourth consecutive first-round knockout victory.
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While Aliakbari respects the South Korean’s skills, the self-proclaimed “Iron Sheik” believes he is the far better mixed martial artist.
“I’ve watched many of his fights — his last fight was against [my teammate Barghi], so I had a good analysis about this opponent. I’ve seen him for a while, and I’m very well-prepared for him,” the Iranian says.
“He is a good fighter. He is a good boxer and hits well, but he also gets hit well. I believe I am stronger in every aspect of the fighting game, and any way this fight goes, I think I’ll be ahead.
“I believe I am stronger in wrestling, striking, and even jiu-jitsu. In all aspects of this match, I believe I’m ahead.”
It’s a bold statement to make, but Aliakbari has every right to feel confident.
The Tehran native, who earned a gold medal in the Greco-Roman category at the 2010 World Wrestling Championships, has brilliantly applied his grappling repertoire to mixed martial arts and added some dangerous weapons to his arsenal along the way.
He holds a near-flawless 10-1 mixed martial arts record, with 70 percent of his victories coming via knockout in the first round. And not only does he own KO power in his hands, but he can take his opponents down to the mat and pound them into submission.
Between that and his unbreakable warrior spirit, the Iranian plans to use this bout as a showcase of his immense talent. Also, he wants to send a message to every heavyweight in ONE Championship.
“I am the most experienced, I’ve had the most fights, I’m the strongest, I’m mentally the toughest, and I am confidently saying that I’m the best fighter in this division, and I’m here to wipe out the whole division,” Aliakbari states.
“I know the fight won’t go to a decision. It’s going to be a knockout. It will be an easy fight. I’ve come to ONE Championship and this division to do really big things. Not only do I want to be the best heavyweight in ONE Championship, but I want to be the best heavyweight around the world, so I’m ready and I’m excited for this fight.”
Aliakbari is also eager to challenge the division’s reigning king.
Since signing with the world’s largest martial arts organization, he’s called out Brandon “The Truth” Vera – even ordering him to hand over the ONE Heavyweight World Title belt.
If the Tehran resident’s prediction comes true and he does beat Kang on Friday, the collision course between him and the Filipino-American superstar will continue to take shape.
“I have come to the division, to ONE Championship, to be the champion. It is my belt. I’m ready to fight Brandon Vera tomorrow,” Aliakbari says.
“I believe Brandon Vera is not ready to fight me, so I’ve asked ONE Championship to line up fights for me. I want the title. I want the championship belt.”