Kickboxing Grand Prix Semifinalists Sound Off Before Fight Night
The ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals will headline ONE: ONLY THE BRAVE this Friday, 28 January – and all four athletes competing in the illustrious tournament are predicting showstopping performances.
Legendary striker and #3-ranked contender Sitthichai “Killer Kid” Sitsongpeenong will meet Georgian dark horse Davit Kiria in the main event. And in the co-main, #4-ranked Chingiz “Chinga” Allazov will battle Thai sensation Smokin’ Jo Nattawut.
Sitthichai and Kiria are set to square off for the third time, while Allazov was scheduled to face Marat Grigorian until the Armenian star withdrew due to COVID-19 protocols.
That last-minute change has added even more drama to the proceedings. And with the action less than 48 hours away, each semifinalist offered their final thoughts ahead of a wild night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Sitthichai Ready For Trilogy With ‘Scary’ Kiria
Even though Sitthicahi holds a 2-0 lead in his head-to-head series with Kiria, he won’t overlook his longtime rival.
“He has improved a lot. He’s more powerful with his punches, and overall, he has become much better than before. He’s a scary opponent,” the Thai says.
“I think [his last fight] was impressive. When I fought Enriko Kehl, it was very close. So Davit surprised me because he won by KO [in the Grand Prix quarterfinals].
“The two elite gifts [he has] would be both the left and right hands. He is naturally someone with very powerful fists and strikes, and he has KO power in his hands.”
That said, “Killer Kid” is supremely confident in his own abilities.
The eight-time Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion has seen it all, and he expects to put on a better performance following his razor-close win over #5-ranked Tayfun “Turbine” Ozcan in the opening round.
“I think from my last fight I have improved myself a lot also,” the 30-year-old says.
“Mainly, it’s the training camp that makes me stay sharp. But going into this tournament, the goal was to be champion, so my focus is on winning the fight and winning the Grand Prix.”
Sitthichai also has his eyes on the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Title, which is held by his old foe Superbon. But first, he must navigate past a dangerous opponent in Kiria and earn his spot in the Grand Prix final.
“It’s a huge honor for me to participate in this tournament. I consider this one of the biggest tournaments I ever fought in in my life. So I want to win this then go back to fight Superbon for the ONE belt,” he adds.
“Davit is always a great fighter, and I respect him. I think it will be a very enjoyable fight. In this third fight, I will get the victory again.”
Kiria Extra Motivated For Old Rival
Kiria was pleased to hear that “Killer Kid” recognized the evolution of his game since they last faced off.
And after a stunning quarterfinal KO of German star Enriko Kehl, the Georgian striker is eager to showcase his improvements in Friday’s trilogy bout.
“It’s true that I worked a lot, and I developed a lot. Thanks for the comment,” Kiria says.
“The only time in my life I lost by KO was against Sitthichai. I have extra focus and extra motivation now to fight him.
“As with all of my opponents, I respect him as a fighter, but I have to do my best to win against him because it’s very [important] for me.”
The Tiblisi native didn’t want to give too much away about his game plan, but he stressed the importance of this opportunity in his career.
Gaining redemption against Sitthichai in the world’s biggest kickboxing tournament would be a massive moment for the 33-year-old, and he plans to pull out all the stops on Friday night.
“I don’t talk about my fight plans. But I know why I’m here and what I want from this fight, and that is to win. I have extra motivation because I want to win this tournament. It’s my biggest aim,” Kiria says.
“My last fight gave me more confidence about this tournament. If I enter healthy and focused in the fight, I’ll bring a good result.
“I have to do something new, unexpected, and surprising to win this fight – something special. I’ll do my best to showcase it in the Circle and show that I’m one of the best.”
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Laid-Back Nattawut Plans To Put On A Show
Ever since his scorching first-round KO win over Yurik “Mee Khao Jomhot” Davtyan in a Grand Prix alternate bout last November, fan-favorite Nattawut has been waiting for the call to join the tournament’s main bracket.
Given that mindset, he isn’t fazed by this last-minute matchup with Belarusian star Allazov.
“Every fighter is different. Everyone is different. If the opponent changes at the last minute, you’ve got to deal with it. Especially now,” Smokin’ Jo says.
“I personally don’t think about [if things were meant to be]. I just go in there, have fun, make sure that the fans enjoy it, and that’s it.”
The 32-year-old striker was due to battle Dovydas “Rimkenzo” Rimkus in another Grand Prix alternate bout on Friday, but he was elevated to the semifinals when Grigorian stepped out.
The stakes are certainly higher now, but Nattawut doesn’t think he or Allazov will be overly affected by the change.
“To me, no matter who you are, when you are fighting, it’s not changing that much. From the beginning until now, I feel like I fight the same all the time,” he says.
“Everybody can say they think they know me. Everybody knows my style. He fights the same way too. The main one is what happens at the moment when we fight. I always prepare well. I go in there and have fun, and whatever happens, happens.”
While the Thai Top Team athlete doesn’t like to get too emotionally invested, he admits that winning the Grand Prix would be a huge achievement. For now, though, he’s simply focused on going out and entertaining the crowd in Singapore.
“It would be good [to win the tournament]. It would mean I’m successful as a fighter. I have come far away from what I expected already,” Nattawut adds.
“This is gonna be fun. That’s all I can say.”
Allazov Prepared For Late-Replacement Nattawut
Striking powerhouse Allazov knocked out Samy “AK47” Sana after only 39 seconds to earn a semifinal date with top-ranked Grigorian.
His focus has now shifted to Nattawut, and despite some changes to the game plan, he’s fully prepared for the new task at hand.
“I trained all my camp to fight against Marat Grigorian, but I changed my opponent to Jo Nattawut. Jo is a good opponent – now I focus 100 percent on him. I feel ready. Preparation has been good,” Allazov says.
“It’s not the same style of fighter. Marat is a forward fighter, a boxing-style fighter. Jo is a Thai fighter. He goes at distance. He throws kicks. He throws punches. I have prepared one week for him. I changed my style a little bit. But for me, it’s no problem.
Like the rest of the field, “Chinga” wants to claim the tournament’s silver belt and get a World Title shot. That requires adapting to different circumstances, and he’s determined to reach his goal no matter what it takes.
“It means a lot to me. They’re the best fighters in the world. When you fight against the best in the world, you prove that you are the best in the world,” the 28-year-old adds.
“This is a fight. This is sport. I am 100 percent focused. I go for victory. How will I win? By KO? I don’t know. I’m just focused on Jo.”
Read more: Davit Kiria: 4 Surprising Facts About The Grand Prix Underdog