Mauro Cerilli faces one of the best prospects in the heavyweight division at ONE: ‘Unbreakable’ Part II. Abdulbasir Vagabov is on a ten fight winning streak but the Italian thinks his superior experience could be key.

Cerilli is the former Cage Warriors heavyweight champion and also challenged unsuccessfully for the ONE Championship strap. He made his MMA debut nine year’s ago and thinks this will give him an edge,

“I am more able to control my emotions, he is greener and younger so this could be something that gives an advantage to me.”

Decision defeat

Cerilli is coming off a decision loss to Arjan Bhullar at ONE: ‘Century’. It is a defeat that still rankles,

“From the Bhullar fight I learned a lot, it was a controversial decision, 50% of people thought he won and 50% thought I won so it was a very close fight and could have gone either way on the judge’s decision.”

He did not get to compete in 2020 but believes a rematch with Bhullar would play out very differently indeed,

“I improved my striking, I improved the way I can control my emotions and I am sure if that fight happened again it would end in another fashion.”

No predictions

He will have plenty on his plate on Friday when he faces Vagabov, in an event that is being broadcast on delay. Cerilli clearly feels he is the superior striker,

“His strengths are he has a very powerful right hand and is a very good wrestler, he doesn’t have many weaknesses but his kickboxing skills are not great.”

Fighters from Dagestan, notably Khabib Nurmagomedov, have made a huge impact on the sport in recent years. Cerilli has nothing but respect for mixed martial artists from this region,

“They are very tough people, they never give up, they have a great wrestling tradition and I have huge respect for Dagestan people.”

He was not willing to make any predictions,

“I don’t like to make any predictions, every fight has its own story so I can’t tell how it will play out.”

Another shot

But Cerilli does have his sights set on a second title shot and knows that a win over the hot streaking Russian could help him secure it,

“I am among the best and after this fight I would like to confirm my position in the top five. I would like to get another title shot this time with the right time to prepare.”

In the last year there has been an influx of talent into the heavyweight division and Cerilli says he is willing to face absolutely anyone,

“I have no problem facing anybody as long as I have enough time to prepare, I don’t focus on the name, I just focus on the man inside the cage.”

Italy has been hit hard by Covid-19 and was one of the first countries to be affected. For Cerilli this is a source of motivation heading into his first fight since 2019,

“I have a great motivation after the rough time we have been through in Italy. I trained under some very adverse circumstances and I’m sure that after this very hard year 2021 will bring great things for me.”