Alain Ngalani is a big man and he has a big opportunity coming up on Friday night. The Cameroonian typically tips the scales at around 230 pounds, but he’s been matched with reigning ONE middleweight champion Aung La Nsang in an openweight non title bout.
It wasn’t a match-up anyone could have predicted, but Ngalani says he has been watching La Nsang for a while.
“As a martial artist, I think Aung La N Sang is a good fighter. You know he’s been in business for a while and he has a very good background. And before even he won the title fight at middleweight I was observing him and I like him. You know, for what he was doing for his country.”
La Nsang is a hero in Myanmar and was recently granted an audience with Aung San Suu Kyi. He will also be fighting in his hometown, but Ngalani has been living in Asia for a long time and has plenty of experience when it comes to taking on local favorites on foreign soil.
“I’ve been in Hong Kong for 20 years, this is my home now. I love competing and fighting all these big names all around the world. In Vegas, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, you know everywhere.”
Ngalani is a decorated kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter and says he simply loves to kick.
On his ONE Championship debut, Ngalani finished his opponent in just over 30 seconds using a spinning kick. He won his last MMA bout by first-round stoppage too, and also won a custom rules bout in South Africa earlier this month.
There is no evidence that the 42-year-old is slowing down with age. Recent results suggest Ngalani is still in his prime and he credits this durability to some harsh lessons learned during childhood in Cameroon.
“When I was around 5 years old, I got bullied and then I came back home and I wanted my Mum to go and help me. I was counting on her (but) she told me, ‘you have to be a man, you know, you have to go back and fight for yourself and stand up for yourself and with any means possible. And when I say any means possible, I mean even if you have to scratch.’”
At the time Ngalani was shocked by this response, but he says it served as the catalyst for him to start learning martial arts.
“I don’t remember what happened, I don’t know that I even did anything, but what she said I never forgot. And then after that she put me into martial arts and it never stopped you know.”
Ngalani was 37 when he burst onto the MMA scene with that spectacular knockout. It is relatively late in life to begin competing in a completely new combat sport, but he has always sought out new challenges.
“I love competition, I love skills, I love to challenge myself. I love to see if someone can do better and I love to learn ultimately from whatever is the outcome of that. So when I come out of it I know I’ll always become a winner. Because whether I actually win the competition or not, I learn something.”
With so many titles Ngalani felt like he had conquered the kickboxing world and competing in MMA seemed like the obvious move.
“I just love challenge so every time I feel like I’m almost there, I’m looking for the next challenge. So today I’m into MMA and I never thought I would be doing MMA. So this has been the next challenge and I’m loving it.”
Ngalani has been successful enough to buy his mother a house and a car. But it’s not the money that motivates him to compete in MMA, he feels the sport represents a natural progression for him after a career spent inside the Muay Thai and kickboxing rings.
His skillset is also something that appeals to MMA promoters. There aren’t many 230-pound men who can finish fights with acrobatic spinning strikes and Ngalani has established himself as one of the most entertaining fighters in the heavyweight division.
For Ngalani it’s not enough to just win fights. He wants to do it in style.
“I’m an entertainer, I like to please the crowd and give them what they want. You know I’m always looking out to make a fight special, make it memorable.”
If there is one thing Ngalani won’t be looking to do at ONE: Here’s Dream, it is please the crowd. That’s because everyone in the audience will be rooting for La Nsang, the hometown hero who could be giving away somewhere in the region of 30 pounds.
Fortunately for the Cameroonian, fighting is not a popularity contest, but a battle of wills. He hopes his size and speed will be too much for Aung La Nsang and Ngalani will be looking to silence the crowd in Yangon by stopping the hometown hero, preferably with a spectacular spinning strike.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter | Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)