Jamal “Kherow” Yusupov may not have been too known among ONE Championship’s global fanbase when he made his promotional debut last month.
But, in a matter of minutes, the 36-year-old set the martial arts world on fire and created a moment that has been burned into every fan’s memory.
???? WHAT AN UPSET ???? Jamal Yusupov makes a STATEMENT in his ONE Super Series debut, knocking out Thai legend Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex in Round 2!????: How to watch ???? http://bit.ly/ONEAODHOTW????: Book your hotel ???? bit.ly/ONEhotelplanner????: Watch on the ONE Super App ???? bit.ly/ONESuperApp????: Shop official merchandise ???? bit.ly/ONECShop
Posted by ONE Championship on Saturday, November 16, 2019
While many people expected the Thai legend to steamroll “Kherow,” the complete opposite happened. Yusupov finished him in the second round, becoming the first person to knock him out in Muay Thai competition in over a decade.
This was one of the most unforgettable moments in ONE Super Series from 2019, and the highlight-reel KO has undoubtedly elevated the Russian’s profile.
In this exclusive interview, Yusupov speaks all about this encounter, talks about how the victory has changed his life, and reveals his ultimate goal for 2020.
ONE: You accepted an opportunity to face Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex on 10 days’ notice back in November. Did you hesitate at all, knowing his legendary status?
Jamal Yusupov: When my manager called me and asked if I wanted to fight Yodsanklai, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I might never have an opportunity like this ever again.’
It was a chance to fight a legend, and every martial artist wants to square off against a legend. Of course, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands immediately.
ONE: What was your game plan?
JY: I was going to box defensively, move a lot, and concentrate on punching rather than kicking.
I thought he might start putting pressure on me quite early, so my job was to [capitalize on] every chance when, and if, he exposed himself. He got quite frustrated in the second round, and I managed to catch him, so it all went according to the game plan.
ONE: It was a very competitive first round. Did you feel you were close to getting the knockout then?
JY: Maybe not close, but I showed everyone I was not going to be just another opponent for Yodsanklai. My opponent probably realized that he was against someone a lot stronger than he had expected.
I noticed at the end of the first round he started missing so many punches. It looked like he was getting more and more frustrated. Then, he started putting a lot of power into his punches. He was looking to KO me.
ONE: What was the pivotal moment in the match?
JY: There were several moments, but when Yodsanklai kicked me and I managed to sweep him, the crowd gasped for air. I think many commentators and viewers thought Yodsanklai was going to steamroll me.
When I dropped him, I think he, himself, was surprised. He must have underestimated me. Before the fight, he said the fight would be over in the first or second round – he turned out to be right, but I don’t think he saw himself losing to me.
ONE: You looked very calm after you knocked him down. How did you deal with your emotions?
JY: True, I did not panic and I did not get lost in the emotions. I stayed as calm as I could and tried to do a clean job.
ONE: What did beating Yodsanklai mean to you — both professionally and personally?
JY: I won against a true legend via knockout – this is the most important win in my whole career. He has not lost via knockout in 10 years, and he has not lost a single Muay Thai bout in eight years. I feel like my win is a part of Muay Thai history.
ONE: Now that you shared the ring with him, has your opinion on Yodsanklai changed at all?
JY: He was a legend before our fight, and he is still a legend. To be honest, I used to watch these top guys like him, Buakaw and [Giorgio] Petrosyan, and imagined how I might perform against them.
I think he is an amazing athlete. Just look at his wins, how confident he has always been, and how much of an advantage he has often had over his opponents – they often did not have much to show against him. I feel proud to have fought him.
ONE: How has your life changed since this win?
JY: I used to fight in China quite a lot, so people knew my name. But now, it’s at the next level. The support from the Chinese fans has been overwhelming. I am back in Russia now and when I arrived in Moscow, I felt that people treated me differently, and with more respect.
ONE: Being a seasoned martial artist who has competed all across the globe, what was your experience like in ONE Championship?
JY: It is a great organization. ONE is a household name in Asia, it is a great brand, and I am very proud to be a part of the ONE roster. I received an amazing reception in Beijing.
Also, ONE is very organized on all levels – management, fighter relations, running the show, etc. Sure, I have fought in many promotions, but I have never seen anything like this before.
ONE: Lastly, what are your goals for 2020?
JY: My biggest goal is to get the ONE belt and become the World Champion. I think ONE is the best martial arts promotion in Asia right now, and I hope I can fight as early as February to start my quest for the gold.