Anatoly Malykhin wants to do something no-one has ever done before at ONE 166. The Russian mixed martial artist already holds the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts and is looking to win a title in a third different weight class.
So far Malykhin has looked unstoppable. The move to middleweight remains a step into the unknown because he has never competed in the division before and will need to lose somewhere in the region of 15kgs in order to do so.
He is rematching Reinier de Ridder, an opponent Malykhin has already beaten convincingly. That fight was for the Dutchman’s light heavyweight title though and this time he will be putting his middleweight strap on the line.
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No fighter has ever won titles in three different weight classes for ONE Championship before, let alone held them concurrently. Malykhin already believes he is the best in the world at heavyweight and feels he has proven himself at light heavyweight too.
In Qatar on March 1st he makes his middleweight debut and admits it is a step into the unknown,
“At heavyweight my skills allow me to consider myself the best (and) I have no weaknesses. I’m one of the best light heavyweights, for sure (but) I can’t say that about myself in the middleweight division because this will be my first fight in this weight.”
Malykhin is undefeated and has finished all 13 of his opponents inside the distance. He has never left a fight in the hands of the judges, let alone looked like losing.
There are no shortage of contenders at heavyweight and two of them, Arjan Bhullar and Amir Aliakbari, are fighting on the ONE 166 card. Malykhin has beaten both before and it sound like he is looking for a completely different type of test,
“I agreed to this challenge because it’s something no one has ever done before me.”
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All the belts
He has also beaten de Ridder before but that was in a light heavyweight title bout at ONE Fight Night 5 last year. That turned out to be a very one sided fight and Malykhin believes the rematch will play out in exactly the same fashion.
“De Ridder won’t have any advantage. I will just go and press him, throw a lot of punches, and everything will be the same as always. It’s going to be very hard work for him.”
Should de Ridder win in Qatar he will have three titles in three different weight classes to defend. It would make the Russian a busy man and constantly moving up and down in weight would potentially put a real strain on the 35 year old’s body.
It is a challenge the Russian would relish and he hopes to defend ‘all the belts’ in 2024,
“First of all, the plan now is to see how I feel at 93 kilograms (middleweight). If it goes well and I feel fine, then I will defend all the belts. The more fights, the better for me. It’s simple. I love to fight.”