Marat Gafurov Excited For New Tests In Stacked New Division

Marat Gafurov celebrates his defeat of Tetsuya Yamada

One of the most successful athletes in ONE Championship history is ready to begin an exciting new chapter in his career at ONE: WARRIOR’S CODE.

On Friday, 7 February in Jakarta, Indonesia, former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov will make his long-awaited return to the ring, and he will embark on a brand new challenge.

In his first-ever match-up in the lightweight division, the 35-year-old from Dagestan, Russia, will face undefeated Moldovan Iuri Lapicus as he aims to kick off his campaign to win gold in a second weight class.

Gafurov is coming off a win against Tetsuya “MMA Fantasista” Yamada last May, and though he could not extend his record for the most submissions in ONE history, it was a performance that showed he was back to his best.

Ahead of his upcoming main card bout, “Cobra” explains why he decided to follow that result by moving up in weight, why his contest with Lapicus will be a must-see, and who he wants to face if he can get his hand raised at the Istora Senayan

ONE Championship: What has kept you out of action for so long, and why did you choose to make your return in the lightweight division?

Marat Gafurov: I wanted to be back earlier but my bouts got canceled several times. Each time I had to lose weight and it is not an easy task!

It has never been pleasant to make weight, but it is getting harder and harder to do it. I have been in this game for a long time and the body can only take so much. I am comfortable at lightweight. I feel strong and healthy. 

ONE: Will you continue your career as a lightweight?

MG: Yes, I hope so. The division is good. There is a lot of talent in it. The only thing I want is more fights. I don’t want to feel sidelined.

I am ready to climb back to the top of ONE rankings. As for fighting at featherweight, I am done, I am tired [of losing weight]. 

ONE: What do you know about Iuri Lapicus, and were you impressed with his ONE debut against Shannon Wiratchai?

MG: I’ve only seen his previous fight and I think this guy is a decent striker, but I probably will be done with him rather quickly.

I hope I can win in the first round and move on. He has not faced anyone serious in his career yet, so it is time! Having said that, I see that he is a talented guy and he is hungry for success, so I will be careful.

ONE: Why are you so confident that you can beat him so quickly?

MG: First of all, I have more experience in the cage. Secondly, I have significantly better grappling.

Yes, Iuri is good on his feet, but, if you remember, my striking is good now – I have improved a lot over the years in ONE. If he wants to trade punches with me I won’t shy away.

I have learned one important lesson, though – never underestimate your opponent. Being overconfident and careless is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in this sport, so I am getting ready for him by training hard. 

ONE: What about this bout excites you and makes for an entertaining match? 

MG: Of course, Iuri and I have different positions in ONE but our goals are the same – we want to move up in the ONE rankings.

He is a newcomer in ONE, he is young and hungry, he wants to get to the top, so he will be throwing some bombs. I am an ex-champ, I want to get back to the top. I have something to prove to my fans and he has to prove his place in ONE.

We both need this win, we are supercharged – you are guaranteed an exciting fight!  

Marat Gafurov defeats Tetsuya Yamada

ONE: What are your thoughts on the athletes in the division, and who would you like to face if you can get past Lapicus? 

MG: It is a very deep division with some amazing fighters like Timofey Nastyukhin, Ev Ting, and Martin Nguyen.

I would be happy to fight against anyone in ONE, but I guess a rematch with Shinya (Aoki) is at the top of my wish list. Shinya and I met back in January 2018 in a grappling super-match at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE in Jakarta.

I lost, ironically via a rear-naked choke – my signature move. I would love to square off against him again, test myself and hopefully avenge my defeat.

Read more: Petchmorakot: ‘This Title Needs To Stay With The Thai People’

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