As ONE FC has expanded, champions from all sorts of organizations have signed on, looking to test themselves on what has rapidly become the most competitive roster in Asia. The biggest names are those of Ben Askren, Bibiano Fernandes, and Shinya Aoki, but another titleholder will be looking to make his mark this week.
Marat Gafurov is the reigning, undefeated M-1 145-pound champion and holds a perfect professional record of 9-0. He’s universally regarded as one of the top prospects in the division, a point he will be looking to prove when he faces Rob Lisita at ONE FC: Roar of Tigers in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night (local time).
Gafurov has had to wait for nearly a year to fight for ONE FC due to a difference of opinion between his management and M-1 as to exactly when his contract expired and he says it has been a frustrating few months.
Given the caliber of Gafurov’s record there is every possibility he will be fast-tracked towards a shot at the title, which is currently held by Jadamba Narantungalag. Despite living and training in Russia, he is well aware of the Mongolian’s credentials.
“I can say the champion is very good fighter, but no one is unbeatable.”
Gafurov’s first assignment inside the ONE FC cage is with Rob Lisita, who in his two fights for the promotion has already established himself as one of the most accomplished and exciting featherweights.
Had Lisita not seen a run of four straight stoppage wins snapped by Eric Kelly earlier this year, he would probably have fought for the title by now, and Gafurov says he knows what to expect from his Australian opponent.
“I did make some research on him. He is tough, also a hard puncher, but not very technical.”
While MMA fans with a global perspective will be familiar with Gagurov’s accomplishments inside the M-1 ring, he is also a decorated submission specialist with a background in multiple martial arts.
“I’ve started doing martial arts in 2002 because I dreamed to become a fighter since I was a teenager. I’m world champion for BJJ, Pankration, and grappling, and I’m black belt for BJJ and ranked one of the best in Europe.”
He hails from the Russian Republic of Dagestan, which must be home to a higher concentration of elite level mixed martial artists than any other country on earth with its fighters making waves in both the UFC and ONE FC.
Gafurov has been preparing for this fight in his homeland alongside a number of top local prospects and established stars.
“I train in club ‘Top Team’ in Dagestan with Yusup Saadulaev, Magomed Magomedov, Vagab Vagabov, and many other talented athletes,” he said.
He stopped short of offering a prediction for his fight with Lisita, which is set for Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, but Gafurov says he is calm and composed, and already has one eye on the ONE FC belt.
“I’m not nervous at all. To win the belt is my dream right now.”
Fans around Asia can catch all the action live on FOX 2 and fans from around the world can purchase the event for US$9.99 from www.onefc.com/livestream.
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