After multiple issues, injuries, and contract negotiations, ONE heavyweight world champion Arjan Bhullar’s first championship defense is officially set in stone.
“Singh” will meet interim titleholder Anatoly Malykhin to unify the divisional crowns at ONE Friday Fights 22 on Friday, 23rd June, inside Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Bhullar captured the ONE heavyweight world title from Brandon Vera in May 2021 to usher in a new era in the ever-growing division, but he hasn’t appeared on the global stage since.
With a growing gap between fights, fans grew increasingly impatient by his absence, and many doubted if India’s first-ever mixed martial arts world champion would be seen again in ONE Championship.
While “Singh” was dealing with complications surrounding his return, a new star rose in the heavyweight ranks.
Malykhin debuted in ONE in March 2021 and put in two blistering performances to force the promotion’s hand with regard to the divisional crown.
The Russian powerhouse battled Kirill Grishenko for the interim belt in February 2022, as a result, and scored his third finish from as many outings to claim the prize, making a unification bout with Bhullar inevitable.
That contest was initially set for summer 2022, before the first of many setbacks transpired. Bhullar and Malykhin were rescheduled to clash at ONE 161 in September, but it was scrapped again – much to the annoyance and criticism of “Sladkiy.”
A final setback occurred this past March. The two were due to meet at ONE Fight Night 8, but a late cancellation pushed the bout back further.
Now, with it set and looking likely, Bhullar will undoubtedly be thinking about what is at risk at ONE Friday Fights 22.
The Indian star’s true fighting caliber will be tested to its limit against the seemingly untouchable force Malykhin. He claims that he will expose the Russian when they square off, but that will be an immensely difficult thing to do, and with a loss will come the end of his reign in the heavyweight division.
The upside for “Singh,” however, is that if he can stop the interim king and become the undisputed ONE heavyweight world champion again on June 23rd, he will silence all the doubters and justify his long road back to action.