Former ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Jonathan “The General” Haggerty believes he can use the lessons he learned from his first bout with Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon to defeat the Thai superstar in their rematch on Friday, 10 January.
The Englishman is scheduled to challenge the reigning titleholder for the belt in the main event of ONE: A NEW TOMORROW, which takes place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
Rodtang ripped the gold away from “The General” in a thrilling five-round encounter at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines this past August.
Since then, Haggerty has made both technical and psychological adaptations in the hopes of swinging the balance in his favor when they meet in the Thai capital.
Ahead of his return, the 22-year-old London resident talks all about his first battle with “The Iron Man,” he shares the lessons he learned, and he explains why he can defeat his old foe the second time around.
ONE Championship: How did the World Title rematch come together?
Jonathan Haggerty: They gave me the immediate rematch [months ago], which I’m very thankful for, but I had to turn it down. In my head, I wasn’t ready. I was still recovering from the loss. I could have jumped straight back in, but then you’re not 100 percent. I’ve done that before and did not get the result I wanted.
It was very hard for me to turn down a rematch, but now is the right time. I know it’s right, and come 10 January, it will [show that I’ve made] the right decision.
ONE: What adjustments will you have to make when you face Rodtang again?
JH: I will come less emotional because, in the fight with Rodtang, he wants you to get emotional. He wants you to fight him. He wants you to bring out your war instincts where you’re not comfortable.
I’m going to stick off my jab and stick off my teep. I’m going to frustrate him. Let him come to fight — which he normally does — and hope we catch him with what we’ve been working on.
ONE: You say you got too emotional the first time. What happened?
JH: There’s no excuses – the better man won on the night. I felt comfortable in the first round. In the second round, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. But the Thais pick it up in the final few rounds and now, with experience, I will keep that in mind.
In the third round, the ref said break. No disrespect, taking nothing away from him, but he touched my back. I felt I got caught with an elbow, and I lost my feet. I tried to walk it off. I got emotional, went to fight, and threw off my arms, which I don’t normally do.
I got frustrated. I wasn’t moving like I was in the first two rounds. I lost my feet and got flat-footed. I just wanted to stand and stick my shots, which wasn’t a good idea.
At the end of the third round and in the fourth, I thought, ‘I’m playing his game now.’ But in my head, I felt like I couldn’t really back down because I felt like I would be running away. I got my head back in the fifth. I thought I took the fifth, but it was too late with the knockdown, obviously. [The judges] look for the damage.
ONE: What did it take to get you back on track in the fifth round?
JH: I just remember my dad shouting and Chris [Knowles, my coach] shouting at me, “You’ve got to win this round.” I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t fatigued. It was just about going out there knowing that you’ve got to stand there when you can’t move your feet properly.
ONE: Have you watched the match back? If so, what did you think about it?
JH: Yeah, I’ve been watching the fight back. I love to rewind the first and second rounds, as it was like a masterclass. I felt unbelievable. But obviously, you’ve got to look at the whole fight.
It’s hard to watch round four when I got dropped. I think that’s the first time I’ve been dropped, but I took my time. I remember looking up and seeing my name on the ceiling. My mum was in the crowd. I took a deep breath, put my hands on my head, got back up, and just kept on my jab and my teep, and used angles.
ONE: What lessons did you take away from it?
JH: Don’t get stuck in there. Don’t fall for his game plan when he sits there banging on his chin. Don’t get sucked in because that’s what he wants. Just laugh at him. Maybe that’s what people want to see, but sometimes, simplicity is the master. I’ll just keep my jab and use more angles so I don’t lose my feet.
ONE: Could you take anything from his World Title defense against Walter Goncalves at ONE: CENTURY?
JH: It was very well matched. That was a close fight, too. I can’t really go off that because Goncalves doesn’t fight like me, he fights like Rodtang. But you can see Rodtang does get frustrated when you move off. He wants to stand there, bang his chin, and get you into a fight, but it won’t be happening.
ONE: Will the rematch be easier because you know what to expect, or harder because you’ll both be prepared for each other?
JH: Easier, because I think we know what to expect. I don’t think he’s anything special. Yeah, he hit me with some good shots — three good shots that I felt. But technically, I’ve been in there with better people than him. It’s just tweaking things that he won’t expect this time, and sharpening things.