ONE Championship has laid out its plans for the immediate future of the heavyweight division.
Prior to the stacked ONE: REVOLUTION event, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced that the bout between top heavyweight contenders Anatoly Malykhin and Amir Aliakbari would determine who would challenge Arjan Bhullar next for the division’s crown.
And with Malykhin making quick work of Aliakbari in this title eliminator, knocking him out midway through the first round, the stage is set for a major heavyweight clash.
“He did his job, he did what he needed to do against the heavy bag which is Amir Aliakbari,” said Bhullar, heaping sarcastic praise on Malykhin while shoveling dirt on Aliakbari.
“[Malykhin] doesn’t have the skills I have, neither does he have the insides. He doesn’t have the spirit I have inside, [and he] doesn’t have the mentality I have,” he added.
Bhullar made mixed martial arts history back in May at ONE: DANGAL when he dethroned then-champion Brandon Vera en route to capture ONE Championship gold. The victory made Bhullar the first and only mixed martial artist of Indian descent to capture a major MMA title.
When Bhullar steps inside the Circle opposite Malykhin, it will mark his first title defense and a chance to make even more history.
“Anatoly has a 10-0 record, very similar to mine. I had that ‘0’ a few years ago, and so I know exactly how he feels. Even in the fight, when I ended up losing, I was winning every second in that fight,” Bhullar recalled.
Bhullar’s lone defeat came in 2018 by way of omoplata submission. But before the rare submission hold was secured, Bhullar had been teeing off on his opponent and looked well on his way to remaining amongst the undefeated.
Instead, Bhullar would be forced to tap, a loss which would end up immensely benefiting his growth as a martial artist.
Since his lone defeat, Bhullar has won four consecutive fights and cemented himself in the ONE Championship record book. And although his win over Vera was historic, there is no debate: rising star Malykhin will be the champ’s toughest task yet.
“There is a way he’s going to carry himself because [he is undefeated], but there’s a way I’m going to carry myself because I’m not too far off from being undefeated myself,” Bhullar said.
“Yet, I have filled in the gaps [in my game] that potentially I don’t think he has because, you know, everything is going well for him – and I’m just going to leave it at that for now. But I do think he’s a formidable opponent and his record shows that. I’m excited for the challenge,” he added.
While Bhullar has expressed his belief that Malykhin is a worthy opponent, the heavyweight champion had a simple response when asked to predict the fight.
“I do not feel it’s going to go the distance. I will have my hand raised and he will be busted up,” Bhullar said.