In a revealing Q&A session, ONE Championship’s two-division king Anatoly Malykhin has spoken about his latest title victory, his wishes for the future, and his loyalty to the Asian fight promotion.
Heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Malykhin solidified his position as the baddest man on the ONE Championship roster when he unified the promotion’s heavyweight titles with a TKO finish of Arjan Bhullar at ONE Friday Fights 22. And, after his victory, he chatted with ONE’s media team about a variety of topics, including a potential heavyweight clash with former UFC champion and new PFL signee, Francis Ngannou.
You said before the fight that you were going to need one round to finish Bhullar, but you got the win in the third. Did it somehow tarnish the joy of victory?
No, I must give him some credit. He turned out to be a tough fighter and a tough guy. I just couldn’t beat him in the first round. I knew I was going to win, and I set out to give my best in every round, to put on a spectacular fight. I’m glad he made it to the middle of the third round, that I could continue beating him for longer. I’m glad he didn’t go down immediately.
You hit him a lot. Worked the body in the second round, then a serious uppercut came in. But it seemed like Arjan absorbed the blows well. You weren’t surprised that he was tougher than you expected?
No, I knew he had good defense. His torso, I think, is his weak point. He always protects his head well, so I worked more on his body – in my calm and relaxed style, that’s it. I waited for the body shots to do their job and then, when he was exhausted, I just hammered him. I cooked the chicken in the oven, roasted it.
What other top heavyweights in the world would you like to face and why?
I would like to meet Francis Ngannou, of course, to see what he’s capable of, if he’s as strong as everyone thinks he is. I don’t think he would pass my test.
Your wife kissed your arm after you won. Your warm and happy connection is so obvious. How would you describe her role in your successes?
I credit all of my success to her. My calmness, my confidence – all thanks to her. My wife believes in me more than I do. Even I have bad thoughts, hesitations before a fight, but she has no such thing. So, six years flew by like one day, and I believe that we still have many, many long years ahead of us.
Vadim Nemkov admitted that he was ready to move to the UFC, getting one million per fight. Under what conditions would you be willing to move?
There are no such conditions that can make me leave ONE. When no one wanted me, Mr. Chatri and ONE gave me a job, gave me a home, and I don’t sell out for money. Whatever price is offered for me now or in the future in the UFC or elsewhere, as long as ONE needs me, as long as I’m a ONE fighter, I stay in this organization. And if ONE doesn’t fire me, I want to end my career with ONE.
You said earlier that you were willing to help Peter Yan and even be in his corner. Will you invite him to train at your gym?
Yes, of course, and Petr has already come to the gym, and I’m sure that when he comes to prepare for his next fight, he will definitely come to the gym. He’s a friend of mine, all doors are open for him and the green light is on.
What are the challenges for you now – do you think it is worth having a go at kickboxing or grappling competitions?
On kickboxing – of course, it’s a no. I don’t overestimate my chances, I look at things realistically. Kickboxing skills are not my stongest point, my kicks and elbow strikes are weak, but a grappling match with Buchecha or De Ridder would be a good idea. I am up for any fighter with some media weight. I’m ready to fight Aliakbari in grappling, we can do it in August or July, no problem at all. That would be a cool event: Aliakbari and Malykhin – rematch, but in grappling. One is a classic wrestler, the other one is a freestyle wrestler. That would create some buzz.
De Ridder replied after you called him out that he wants to fight earlier, before you can make weight for the middleweight division. He wants to face Shamil Erdogan soon, in August -September, and then you. What do you think of that option?
I think that if he meets Shamil, Shamil will become the champion and he’ll reign in 93 kg, so I will not meet De Ridder if he faces Shamil, and I will be the champion in 102 kg and in heavyweight, 120 kg. I train together with Shamil, I won’t fight him.
Does the fact that De Ridder is ready for such a demanding schedule – Shamil in August, you a couple of months later – mean that he doesn’t see you as a serious contender in the middleweight division?
I think De Ridder has already understood everything about me and he definitely understands that me calling him out is serious. I think he understood what really is going on.
What do you think of Shamil Erdogan?
Shamil is a friend of mine. He beat me in freestyle wrestling in the past. He has got great wrestling, already good kickboxing. He’s a good, calm, balanced fighter and a man, a great representative of his nation.