Alain “The Panther” Ngalani is ready to take on yet another colossal challenge when he makes his long-awaited return to the Circle.
The Cameroon-born star will face off against debuting man-mountain “Reug Reug” Oumar Kane in a heavyweight mixed martial arts fight at ONE: UNBREAKABLE II, a previously recorded event from the Singapore Indoor Stadium that airs this Friday, 29 January.
Giant obstacles are nothing new to Ngalani, and he is ready to meet the Senegalese wrestling sensation head-on.
“I have faced people much bigger than him before and, if anything, I love the challenges,” he says. “It excites me and triggers me even more to face someone who seems to be stronger and bigger than me.”
Ngalani, who owns and operates Impakt Academy Of Mixed Martial Arts in Hong Kong, last featured on the global stage in March 2019. Since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a major role in his inactivity.
“The Panther” was slated to face mixed martial arts legend Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in the Brazilian’s promotional debut, but restrictions have put that contest on ice.
After so much time on the sidelines, Ngalani’s main priority is to resume competing, though he’s still eyeing the matchup with Belfort for later in 2021.
“This past year has just been about training for Vitor,” he says. “I wasn’t about to step into the cage again for anyone else but him, but it’s been too long, and I just feel like getting back in there and getting into the groove again.
“Although I’m fed up [with] waiting, I can also understand that everyone has to stay safe, so people struggle to travel. In the meantime, I would like to step in the cage, have fun, and get myself out there.”
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It’s not a like-for-like switch of opponent, however, and “The Panther” has needed to make some adjustments in order to get ready for “Reug Reug.”
He’d originally based his preparation on a stand-up battle with Belfort, while the Senegalese Wrestling Champion has a reputation for high-impact throws and slams.
“My training has changed completely. I wasn’t training for MMA with Vitor Belfort at first,” Ngalani says.
“So when they proposed Oumar, I just had a few weeks to brush up on my wrestling and my wrestling defense. We have quickly done that, but as a fighter and athlete, I am always ready and able.
“I just needed to touch up and polish a few things. Otherwise, I am fit enough to step in to fight. I just have to strategize, and I am okay with that.”
Despite changes to his game plan, “The Panther” believes he will hold some advantages in this head-to-head matchup.
The massive “Reug Reug” is one of the most physically imposing heavyweights ever seen on the global stage and there is little point in trying to charge straight at an immovable object.
Instead, Ngalani plans to utilize the unique athletic traits that make him a rare type of heavyweight.
“I think, overall, I am much better than [‘Reug Reug’]. I think I am very strong, I am very flexible, I am very agile, and I am very fast,” he asserts.
“You can’t just be big without having the advantage of flexibility and being able to use the speed the way you have to. This is MMA – it’s not wrestling, so you have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to move, and you have to be really fast in everything you want to do, so speed is important.”
Still, “The Panther” isn’t looking past Kane’s dangerous physical tools or the skills he’s honed in Senegal.
“That’s not to say I take my opponent for granted. Not at all. I value his strength and his background,” Ngalani adds.
“I know that he is a champion in traditional wrestling. I have always liked this wrestling style. It is very popular in Africa, especially in Senegal. Me, personally, I am a fan of that style and that is why I am even more excited to measure myself against him on this stage.”
The four-time Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion is no stranger to the global stage, and even though he’s still hoping to face Belfort down the road, he’s just as excited to return – and produce fireworks – against a rising star in Singapore.
“It’s been long overdue. I am happy to get back into the cage and I need to show the fans something special, so I am ready for this,” Ngalani says.
“I definitely do not think this fight will go to the end. It will definitely end by finish. I am planning to finish him — that’s my plan.”