Panicos Yusuf is planning for an explosive ONE Super Series performance next Sunday, 31 March in Tokyo, Japan.
At ONE: A NEW ERA, the British-based Cypriot will face “Jordan Boy” Mohammed Bin Mahmoud in a bantamweight Muay Thai clash that is sure to deliver excitement as part of ONE Championship’s debut in The Land Of The Rising Sun.
The 22-year-old Malaysian has incredible knockout power and expects to score a finish, but his opponent believes his technical excellence and extensive experience in the art of eight limbs will be too much for him to handle.
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“‘Jordan Boy’ is an up-and-coming kid, he’s hungry, he’s really strong, but he is a kid. I’ve been in the ring with high-level guys, and I’ve seen it all and felt it all,” Yusuf explains.
“I don’t think he’ll have an answer for anything I’ve got. Anything he has, I’ll be able to counter or return.
“We’re wearing mixed martial arts gloves, so anything is possible, but skill-wise, I don’t think he’s near my level.”
Mohammed is not the first aggressive young athlete the 33-year-old has faced in The Home Of Martial Arts.
Yusuf made his organizational debut against Han Zi Hao last year. Before the Chinese star went on a winning streak and challenged for the ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title, he was soundly defeated over three rounds by the three-time Muay Thai World Champion.
Han kept coming forward, but the All Powers Gym representative’s counters, sweeps, and dominance in the clinch were too much for him to handle. His conqueror anticipates a similar dynamic at the Ryogoku Kokugikan against “Jordan Boy.”
“I just imagine him getting frustrated and not being able to land shots. He’ll end up trying to chase me, and he’ll just get punished on the way in,” he adds.
“I’m going for my KO bonus this time, I’m telling you!”
This assignment came as a surprise for Yusuf, but he says is delighted to share the spotlight with popular athletes he respects like Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex, Andy Souwer, Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez.
“I heard it was going to be a big show in Tokyo because it was the first one in Japan. I saw the build-up, and to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to be part of it.
“Then they rang me and offered me the fight, and I thought, ‘Wow.’ It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
For many competitors, competing on the biggest martial arts event in history would come with a lot of pressure, but not for the man from Manchester.
Yusuf – the son of a Filipino mother – made his bow in front of a huge audience in the Mall Of Asia Arena last July, and he has a wealth of other experience competing around the world, so jitters are not likely to be an issue.
“The first time I fought for ONE was in Manila, which was in front of about 20,000 people. That was nerve-wracking because it was a few more people than I’m used to fighting in front of,” he laughs.
“But once I came out, it was OK. Once you’re in the ring, it’s just you and him. It doesn’t really affect me – you have to do what you’ve been working toward for six weeks.”
The Muay Thai expert is also encouraged by his conditioning ahead of this match-up.
After recovering from a broken hand he suffered against Muangthai P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym in November, he is healthy and in better shape than ever.
A new strength and conditioning regimen has boosted his speed and power, which has prepared him to shoot for a result that could propel him into bouts with his division’s top athletes for the rest of 2019.
“I’ve changed up my training this time. I was looking back at training footage from my mid-20s, and I’m hitting harder and faster than I was,” he explains.
“I think I’m already considered to be a pretty decent fighter in the eyes of ONE. As long as I perform well and have an exciting fight, it will push me.”