Now, the wait is officially over.
This past Friday, 24 September, undefeated Russian powerhouse Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin beat Iranian star Amir Aliakbari via first-round knockout at ONE: REVOLUTION to earn a shot at the heavyweight king.
Bhullar – who is also India’s first Mixed Martial Arts World Champion – watched the riveting clash from his home and was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. However, he also studied Malykhin’s fighting style and believes he found some glaring weaknesses.
In this exclusive interview, “Singh” reviews the Russian’s performance against Aliakbari, shares some initial thoughts on “Sladkiy” as an opponent, and sends a message to his upcoming challenger.
ONE Championship: What were your thoughts on the recent fight between Anatoly Malykhin and Amir Aliakbari?
Arjan Bhullar: I thought the fight was a good fight. It was entertaining. [It was] exciting, although very one-sided. It was good to see from a fan perspective. Aliakbari likes to talk a lot. Anatoly has an easygoing, funner personality. And I was just excited to see how that plays out.
ONE: Anatoly ultimately knocked him out and earned a World Title shot against you. Before we talk about that, what did you think about his performance?
AB: Anatoly was able to impose his stand-up. There are obviously glaring holes in Aliakbari’s stand-up, and that was his path of least resistance to a victory. It was good to actually see what his stand-up looks like.
Generally, he’s rushed in for takedowns and gone that route. You know, [at] the end of the day, he got his arm raised – that’s [what’s] most important. But next is me, and I’m not Aliakbari, and we see holes in what he has shown, and I’m excited for the challenge to go exploit them.
ONE: Anatoly is undefeated at 10-0. Could that play a role in your matchup and give him an extra air of confidence?
AB: Anatoly has a 10-0 record, very similar to mine (11-1). I had that “0” a few years ago, and so I know exactly how he feels. I don’t feel too far off from that. Even the fight when I ended up losing (by submission), I was winning every second in that fight.
There is a way he’s going to carry himself because of that, but there’s a way I’m going to carry myself because I’m not too far off from being undefeated myself.
Yet, I have filled in the gaps [in my game] that potentially I don’t think he has because, you know, everything is going well for him – and I’m just going to leave it at that for now. But I do think he’s a formidable opponent, and his record shows that. I’m excited for the challenge.
ONE: How are you going to prepare for this match?
AB: I’m going to prepare for this match like we always have. I’ve got the same team around me. We will have training partners that mimic Anatoly, similar to [my] other fights.
The work has already begun, and it had already begun the day I signed [with ONE] and the day he signed. I knew we’d see each other, so I’m just excited that my next defense has been announced.
ONE: Is there any sort of message you want to share with Anatoly?
AB: I know he did his job. He did what he was supposed to do against a heavy bag that is Amir Aliakbari.
The guy doesn’t have the skills I have, neither does he have the insides. He doesn’t have the spirit I have inside, [and he] doesn’t have the mentality I have.
I cut no corners, I go the extra mile, I’m not as stiff as him, and I’m not as stationary as him, so it’s going to be a completely different animal coming at [Anatoly]. I’m excited to get it on.
ONE: Lastly, what is your prediction for this World Title fight?
AB: There are various ways it can play out, but I do not feel it’s going to go the distance. I will have my hand raised, and he will be busted up.