Agilan Thani aims to be first Malaysian to win MMA world title at One Championship's 'Dynasty of Heroes'

Ben Askren is recognised as one of the best welterweight in mixed martial arts (MMA) today and one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound.

The 32-year-old native of Phoenix, Arizona holds an unblemished professional MMA record of 15-0 with four knockout victories and four submission wins.

Askren is highly regarded for his outstanding wrestling background that earned him two NCAA Division I national championship trophies and the privilege to represent the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Known by the moniker “Funky,” Askren made an impact in his first two ONE Championship bouts, submitting Bakhtiyar Abbasov with an arm-triangle choke in his May 2014 promotional debut before thwarting Nobutatsu Suzuki in the first round to claim the organisation’s coveted welterweight crown three months later.

Askren is coming off a unanimous decision triumph over Russia’s Nikolay Aleksakhin in April of last year, keeping his immaculate MMA record intact and the ONE Welterweight World Championship belt around his waist.

Scheduled to co-headline ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES in Singapore on 26 May, Askren seeks to remain undefeated by getting his 16th-straight victory as a prizefighter.

However, a young lion aims to prove the old fighting adage of “Nobody makes it out of this game unscathed" by handing Askren his first-ever professional defeat.

Askren stakes his ONE Welterweight World Championship title against Malaysian MMA prospect Agilan “The Alligator” Thani at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which takes place at the 12,000-capacity Indoor Stadium on May 26.

The 21-year old standout from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a perfect 7-0 as a professional, with five of his seven victories ending in the first round.

All of Thani’s victories have come by exciting finish. The young Malaysian has shown steady improvement in each outing and has earned a shot at Askren’s gold-plated strap.

Thani is well aware of the size of the task ahead as Askren has swept all opposition before him in ONE Championship, but he believes that anything is possible and that he can spring a big upset.

"I know Ben is a very talented, strong, technical and relentless wrestler,” he said. "That said, no human is unbeatable, so he can think whatever he wants about beating me easily. I'm going to just do my thing, and I believe I have what it takes to win."

While some fighters will say they are unlike any normal person, Thani has a different perspective and insists that he is a man of the people.

"Many have tried to beat Askren, but I'm just going to try to do my best. I don't think I'm anything special and I never act like I am. I'm the same, like everyone else. I just like fighting, and I just feel that I can beat him if I perform my best. I'm so grateful that I have my chance," he stated.

With less than two weeks away from the biggest bout in his MMA career, Thani hopes that he keeps his undefeated slate and become the first Malaysian to win a world title in MMA.

“I'm not just there to make up numbers, though. I'm getting the belt and it's been my goal since I made my debut. My ambition is to be the best in the world and defend my belt multiple times. I respect Ben and I hope he stays healthy and has a good training camp. I'll be waiting for him in Singapore," he ended.