One of Malaysia’s favorite martial arts sons will make his long-awaited comeback at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY.
After almost two years of injury woes, Saiful “The Vampire” Merican is set to return to ONE Championship in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 12 July.
What makes the 30-year-old’s comeback even more special is that he will finally get to compete on the global stage for martial arts under Muay Thai rules in a bantamweight bout against his compatriot Mohammed “Jordan Boy” Bin Mahmoud.
Malaysian sensation Saiful Merican has his sights set on a win when he returns home to take on fellow compatriot…
“The art of eight limbs” was not a factor on the global stage, so Merican competed as a mixed martial artist. However, the advent of ONE Super Series means he can compete under his favored rule set and show off why he has been able to build an incredible 94-16-13 professional record.
Ahead of his date at the Axiata Arena, “The Vampire” broke down how he has spent the past two years, what it means to compete again, and the challenge he faces from his countryman.
ONE Championship: How does it feel to compete again after two years?
Saiful Merican: Of course, it feels great. It was a moment I’ve been waiting for in almost two years. I have never been so happy to finally be back competing again for ONE.
I’ve fought at ONE Championship several times, but this is truly something special. The long wait ends here, a time with an endless amount of sacrifices will be put on display in the ring on 12 July.
ONE: How close has Muay Thai remained to your heart?
SM: My last Muay Thai fight was about six years ago, I think. I can’t remember much, but a couple of months later I made my ONE Championship debut.
My specialty has always been Muay Thai, and I’ve been doing this for years. I’m so happy to finally fight Muay Thai in ONE Championship and to show the fans what I’ve got.
It wasn’t available two years ago, but this platform is now the best striking competition since its introduction last year.
ONE: When this offer came, what was your first reaction to it?
SM: When my wife told me that they offered me [the match], I was like, ‘Yes! Let’s do this!’
I’ve been waiting for almost two years because of my injury from my last bout in Macau. I’ve tried to stay active, tried to not think about my injury, and live a normal life, but once you’re a fighter, you’re always going to be a fighter.
Every time I watched my teammates fight, I wished I could compete again as soon as possible and the day has finally arrived.
ONE: How excited are you to compete in front of the Malaysian fans in KL?
SM: Fighting around the world will never be the same compared to competing in front of the Malaysian crowd.
I always love their energy when they cheer for me and my teammates. Malaysian crowds will always have a special place in my heart because, without them, I’m nobody.
ONE: How did you stay positive during your long wait to make your comeback?
SM: It’s very important to stay positive and to understand that the process takes time. If you rush it, you will never fully recover.
I was initially disheartened about the setback, but I accepted that the only way I would be able to recover was by getting adequate rest, and attending regular physiotherapy sessions.
It was hard to come to terms with not being able to compete for more than a year. As an athlete, all you want to do is get back into action.
ONE: What can fans expect when you return on 12 July?
SM: My promise to all the fans is I will give my very best, that’s for sure. I know fight fans love a good show, so I will give them a good show.
To all the fans that have been waiting for me to return to action for the past two years, thank you for your patience, and thank you for always having my back, and supporting me during my good and bad times.
I truly appreciate all of you. I’m so excited to tell you that I’m finally back in action.
ONE: How much do you know about your opponent?
SM: I have known and followed “Jordan Boy” as he came up the ranks in the Malaysian Muay Thai circuit. I’m proud to say he has a lot of potential to go far in this sport.
His younger brother Putera has also fought in one of the Merican Fight Nights – an amateur Muay Thai event I used to host at my gym. They’re a very tight team, and it’ll be an interesting match as both of us have very different Muay Thai styles.
What’s better is that I can guarantee the audience there will be action throughout the three-round fight. I know he’s got good power in his kicking and punching. His only weakness I would say is his experience.
ONE: What was your initial reaction when you discovered that your opponent was a Malaysian?
SM: I was shocked, but when it was tabled to me, he had already accepted the fight. To not agree, would mean I have to put my return on hold, so I did not hesitate and put pen to paper on that.
I never liked competing against a Malaysian on an international stage in Kuala Lumpur, but I’ve got to grab this chance.
ONE: How do you see this bout ending?
SM: I wouldn’t like to make too many predictions, but I want to give the best show to the Malaysian fans, and fans around the world. Be there at Axiata Arena on 12 July to witness it.