Agilan “Alligator” Thani has been diligently preparing for his co-main event battle against Kyrgyzstan’s Kiamrian Abbasov at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS this Friday, 7 December.
The Malaysian, who rose to fame after his ONE Welterweight World Title challenge in May 2017, said it has been quite a productive training camp. However, a quick change of emotions took place when he spoke about how far he has come in the past six years.
“You might see me here today, being a professional athlete with lots of fans, but I did not have it easy at the beginning,” the 23-year-old confessed.
When “Alligator” started his career, he was originally living in Kuala Lumpur with his father, Thanigasalam, who constantly gave him advice and pushed him towards a stable career path.
In some ways, it seemed counterproductive, as the young Malaysian felt alienated.
“Living with my dad was not easy. He always told me to work, to earn money, and to get a good job,” Thani explained.
“I couldn’t listen to my dad saying that all the time, and when I was 17, I told myself I needed to be independent.”
It did not get much easier when he joined Monarchy MMA, as the gym’s owner and head coach Samir “Flexible” Mrabet was hard on him.
“In the early days, he pushed me. He told me I cannot get lazy. If not, this choice of career would not work out in the right way,” Thani recalled.
“His advice still sticks to me today: ‘do you want to be a normal person in life or someone better in life?’
“Sometimes, it gets real tough. I’ll just sit down and cry at the corner of the gym before the other gym members, and Mrabet tries to convince me to never give up.”
Even though he went through some difficult experiences, “Alligator” is grateful to both his father and his head coach for shaping him into the person he is today.
“If it wasn’t for my dad and [Mrabet], I wouldn’t be here,” the Kuala Lumpur native says. “I am who I am today thanks to these two.”
Since then, it has been an uphill journey for Thani. The Malaysian welterweight sensation has a 9-2 record, with five wins via submission and another three via TKO. Despite an impressive slate and a plethora of highlight-reel moments, Thani believes he has so much more to learn in order to become an elite martial artist.
“There are lots of things to learn in this game. The most impressive part of the sport that I’ve learned over the years is to have a very composed mind ahead of your fights,” he said.
“I learned this from my defeat to Ben Askren and Zebaztian Kadestam – no matter how skillful or good you are, your mind has to be at the same level of these top athletes.”
Thani’s mind is in the right place, and he will look to storm his way back into contendership this Friday at the Axiata Arena. The Malaysian is scheduled to meet Abbasov, a well-rounded athlete who is looking to enter the ONE Welterweight World Title picture.
“He’s pretty good, and I’ve seen his record and fight style,” Thani said. “I’m ready for his tricks and style, and I’m confident of securing a victory in my hometown, Kuala Lumpur.”
That would certainly make his two biggest influences proud.