Marat Gafurov is the former ONE Championship featherweight champion. His reign ended in 2017 at the hands of Martin Nguyen but the Russian is still going strong albeit in a different division.

Gafurov is campaigning at lightweight these days and faces fellow veteran Ariel Sexton at ONE 159 on Friday. For once the 37 year old Russian will not be fighting a younger opponent.

Sexton is three years older than Gafurov who says it is a fight he has been campaigning for,

“I wanted to be matched up with him. Ariel is a great and challenging opponent. We are both grapplers, he likes to attack and move forward, just like me. So, it’s an interesting challenge to check my skills and abilities against his.”

Mixed results

Last year Gafurov moved up to lightweight and the results have been mixed. He scored a split decision win over Lowen Tynanes but has been beaten by both Iuri Lapicus and Ok Rae Yoon.

But while recent results haven’t always gone his way Gafurov feels he is a dangerous opponent for anyone,

“I am a dangerous fighter not just for Ariel, but for any opponent. It’s a very difficult task to take me down, and even harder to submit me. For a grappler like Ariel, this fight can get really hard if he fails to take me down because he will have to face me on his feet.”

Both men are BJJ black belts who tend to win their fights by submission. But while Gafurov acknowledges the similarities between him and Sexton the Russian believes he has several advantages,

“We are similar, two aggressive grapplers. We prefer offense to defense. In a stand-up, we like to push forward. But I am physically stronger, and my control on the ground is better than his. Anything can go during the fight. Let’s see what happens.”

Long break

This will be Gafurov’s first fight in over a year. It is the longest break he has taken from competitive fighting since he first started out in 2010.

Despite his status as a former champion Gafurov is concerned the fans might have forgotten him. He wants to put on a ‘memorable show’ in Singapore this Friday to remind everyone exactly who he is and what he can do,

“I want to give the audience a spectacle of a fight. I have been away for a long time, so I want it to be a memorable show for them and for myself. I hope we have a chance to fight both in stand-up and on the ground. I am aiming for an early finish via submission or TKO.”