The ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title fight between reigning king Roman Kryklia and Murat “The Butcher” Aygun was originally scheduled for October, but Kryklia believes the delay is bad news for his rival.
The pair will now fight for the gold at ONE: HEAVY HITTERS on Friday, 14 January, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and the Ukrainian striker has used the last few months to become even more famililar with his challenger.
“It’s not the first time we have prepared for this bout. There were some difficulties, but now I feel 100 percent and in the perfect form for the upcoming fight,” Kryklia says.
“With my coach, we’ve studied the opponent and prepared for him for a long time, and now I have a chance to show the results of this work.”
With two near-perfect ONE Super Series performances to his credit and the World Championship gold around his waist, Kryklia has already made quite an impression on the global fan base.
And despite a roller-coaster journey leading up to this World Title defense, the 30-year-old isn’t feeling any extra pressure about his co-main event clash with Aygun.
“It’s a great responsibility to be a champion. Every fight is watched by a lot of people, expectations are high. It’s a challenge in my life to defend my title each time. But I like that. I like challenges and will enjoy it,” he says.
“I prepare for each of my fights with maximum responsibility, strategically and physically. Then, when I enter the Circle, I have only one goal – to win and show myself off. During the fight, I’m not thinking about defending the title.”
After their last bout fell through, Kryklia was initially booked for a move up to heavyweight to compete for a second ONE Super Series World Title against Iraj Azizpour.
However, the Ukrainian was forced to withdraw from that matchup, and he’s now back at light heavyweight – a place he feels most dangerous, especially with 7 centimeters of height and 24 centimeters of wingspan over his foe.
“I feel very comfortable [at light heavyweight]. I always feel my superiority in speed, [physical] parameters, and feeling of distance,” Kryklia says.
“For light heavyweight, I’m very tall and try to use my height advantage. Accordingly, the guys who are shorter find it hard to control the situation during the fight and to hit within their distance. This is one of my main advantages in this weight class.”
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Kryklia also thinks that advantage will be exacerbated by his opponent’s style. “The Butcher” likes to wade forward with heavy combinations, but that could see him run into problems against the cerebral World Champion.
“Murat Aygun is quite an aggressive fighter who strikes in combinations with his arms and legs, a classic Dutch school of kickboxing,” Kryklia says.
“I have studied him, but having said that, I think I won’t face any problems. I like facing guys with an aggressive attitude who keep pressing forward. It’s only good for me, I’m ready for it.
“[He does] nothing unpredictable. This is exactly what you can expect from him — going forward, and hitting inside his distance. All this is predictable for me. I’m ready for his course of action.”
Still, the champ does not expect to simply run through the Dutch-Turkish challenger, who holds a 17-1 record in the striking arts due to his incredible power and granite chin.
Instead, the reigning king wants to do what he does best – outfox “The Butcher” using his skills and attributes, showing that technical proficiency can overcome brute force.
“In the upcoming fight, I want to show complete control over the situation,” Kryklia adds.
“I don’t have a specific plan in mind to end the bout with a certain action. The main thing is to feel the opponent and control the entire bout.
“Of course, knees are one of my favorite techniques. We’ll see if Aygun has learnt how to protect himself from them.”