McGuire Will Put Aside Friendship With Thani In Pivotal Showdown

It’s been two years since Tyler McGuire graced the Circle, but the talented American is set to resume his chase for the gold.

The next leg of that journey will come against fellow welterweight contender Agilan “Alligator” Thani at ONE: BIG BANG II this Friday when the previously recorded event airs from Singapore.

It’s a matchup that McGuire is incredibly excited about, especially given his close relationship with “Alligator.”

“When I found out that I would be competing against [Thani], I actually sent him a message, and he and I chatted about how we’re going to put on a show for the fans,” the 34-year-old American says.

“Obviously, our friendship remains, but for 15 minutes, we’re just going to set that aside, and we’re going to put on a show. The fans are what matter.”

The American last competed at ONE: WARRIOR’S DREAM, where he challenged Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam for the vacant ONE Welterweight World Title in November 2018.

But after four-plus rounds of competitive action, Kadestam scored a spectacular knockout, handing McGuire the only defeat of his professional career.

Despite the tough setback, the 11-1 Washington native took positive lessons from his first-ever five-round contest.

“Kadestam went into deep water, and he could swim, and that’s something I wanted to test,” McGuire says. “Neither one of us folded, and I got caught. That’s the fight game.”

To get back in the win column, the Sikjitsu representative will have to topple a man he admires.

“Obviously, I don’t hang out with [Thani] every day, but in every interaction I’ve ever seen with him, he’s of high integrity and character,” McGuire says.

“As a matter of fact, one of my favorite stories about him is the first time I met him. He was wearing one of the shirts that ONE gives out to some of its fighters, and I was commenting on how I really liked it.

“He literally just took the shirt off of his back and gave it to me just because I said I liked it. Never met him before, and it’s just because that’s the type of person he is.”

American MMA fighter Tyler McGuire poses with his daughter in their Autism Rocks shirts

Integrity and character also define McGuire.

As a former teacher who served children with autism, McGuire has made an effort to raise awareness about the condition.

“I started doing it after I got a gift from my family of a shirt to wear to my fight, and then I kept wearing it. From then, every single fight,” he says.

“I’d have a mother, father, sister, aunt, or brother tell me how the shirt meant a lot to them, and that [the shirts] were raising awareness for children on the autism spectrum.

“It’s a misunderstood neurological condition, but just like any other kid, they just want to be loved and understood. That’s all I’m trying to do with raising that awareness.”

While both competitors have a strong moral compass, their feelings of friendship won’t cloud their judgment on fight night.

In McGuire’s case, he’ll be fully prepared for the well-rounded Malaysian star, who’s already produced eight career finishes.

“As far as skill set, Thani’s got a motor that doesn’t stop. He’s not afraid to engage anywhere, whether that be on the feet or the ground,” the American says.

“If I am fortunate enough to take him down, he’s going to do everything in his power to get up. I know that for this fight, I’m going to have to try and put him away for 15 minutes because if I don’t, he’s going to return the favor.”

There’s no question that Thani is a formidable opponent. He’s been competing against the elite welterweights for years, and he’s coming off a narrow split-decision victory over previously unbeaten American competitor Dante Schiro at ONE: MARK OF GREATNESS in December 2019.

The Malaysian’s development has also been aided by ONE Light Heavyweight World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang and the coaches at Sanford MMA. However, that does not intimidate McGuire.

“Regardless of who he trains with, it’s still Agilan in the cage. I’m not fighting Aung La,” he says.

“Who you train with doesn’t really matter because in the end, it’s Agilan in the cage, and he’s got two arms and two legs and needs air to breathe. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

Also, McGuire knows that beating a fellow contender in Thani would get him close to another ONE Welterweight World Title shot – this time against the division’s reigning king, Kiamrian “Brazen” Abbasov.

“I think I can beat [Abbasov] too. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way,” the American says.

“He’s the champ, and he deserves and has earned that respect. It’s also my job to try and take it from him.”

McGuire knows he will need a special performance to get that opportunity, and he expects to make a statement against “Alligator” at ONE: BIG BANG II.

“I think there’ll be some cage time and then a finish on the ground – whether it comes from strikes or a submission, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he says.

“In the end, fans like knockouts too. Everything I throw is with that intent. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Read more: Thani Hopes Big Changes To Training Regimen Pay Off Against McGuire

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