Two of the top flyweights on the ONE Championship roster face off next week. Kairat Akhmetov is a former champion while Danny Kingad is universally regarded as being a future champion and the Kazakh has plenty of respect for his opponent.

Akhmetov knows that Kingad has only ever lost to the very best in the division and had nothing but praise for the Filipino who he is set to face off against at ONE: ‘Big Bang’ next Friday,

“He doesn’t have many holes in his game. He is a complete fighter who can strike, wrestle, and grapple well. He always has good cardio too,” he said.

However Akhmetov is not exactly lacking in confidence himself,

“I’m not just a wrestler. We are ranked very high in this division, and this match is a can’t miss for all fans,” he said.

Rescheduled bout

The two were originally set for face off in the semi finals of the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix last year. Akhmetov withdrew due to injury but he has had plenty of time to study his upcoming opponent,

“This bout is interesting to me because we were supposed to face each other in the Grand Prix. Now, we have a chance to finish our business. I have only a good impression of him. He is a really good and worthy opponent,” he said.

It is not just his opponent’s technical ability which has caught Akhmetov’s eye. He is also impressed by Kingad’s sheer will to win,

“Danny is a very interesting fighter with a big heart, and a strong will to win. He is a very explosive, and well-rounded athlete,” he said.

Elite mentality

Akhmetov comes from Kazakhstan and says it is a country where expectations are high,

“In Kazakhstan, there is a strange mentality, people can quickly abandon you if you make a mistake as a fighter,” he said.

He feels that being a fighter from Kazakhstan brings additional pressure,

“Today you are a winner, and they love you, and the next day, if you lose, they can trash your name. People get into very emotional and into heated debates about fights where I am from.”

High stakes

Adriano Moraes will defend his flyweight title against Demetrious Johnson next year. Akhmatov knows what it takes to beat the Brazilian, he has done it himself.

He has never had a chance to fight Johnson but would love to test himself against the former UFC flyweight champion,

“It would be my dream come true to fight ‘Mighty Mouse’ I am a big fan. For me, he is one of the greatest fighters of all time. I don’t know how long I could last against Demetrious, but maybe we (will) find out in the future.”

With so many fighters in the division having fallen by the wayside during the Grand Prix the Kazakh knows that there is a potential vacancy for a title contender. A shot at the champion could be on the line and Akhmetov is determined to establish himself as the next contender,

“There’s a lot on the line in this one. I will do everything in my power to get my hand raised on that day.”