Through his five-year tenure with ONE Championship, welterweight contender Agilan Thani has forged a reputation as one of the division’s toughest adversaries, a roadblock of sorts to many who’ve held title aspirations.
That reputation has been primarily built on his exceptional abilities as a submission grappler, the foundation of his build as a professional martial artist.
Like they say, it’s all in the name – and Thani certainly lives up to his moniker – the “Alligator”.
However you may be surprised to learn, the nickname wasn’t founded on his fighting style. In fact, in a bizarre reversal of trends, Thani almost grew into the moniker.
“When I first started fighting on a local show a guy whose fighter I was against just gave me the name,” Thani recalled.
“His fighter was a big star in that city, so to make me look like I was a big star as well, he gave me the name ‘Alligator’ and it just stuck with me since then.”
Thani quickly lived up to that billing and – as most of his victims will attest – once he gets a hold of you on the mat it’s akin to being in the sort of vice-like grip the swamp-based reptile is known for.
That said, the Monarchy MMA product refuses to be pigeon-holed as simply a ground fighter.
“I’m an MMA fighter but most people know I’m a grappler because most of my fights finish in submissions,” said Thani.
With three finishes by way of knockout among his nine career wins, the skills are clearly there, and he’s aiming to put them on display when he takes on Japanese-Korean star Yoshihiro Akiyama at ONE: Legendary Quest in Shanghai on June 15.
Preparing at Bali MMA – an increasingly popular base for ONE Championship’s star-studded roster – Thani has been working with striking coach Mike Ikilei, who has encouraged the 23-year-old to put more faith in his abilities on the feet.
“I’ve been there for two weeks and coach Mike has helped me out in believing in my striking more,” Thani explained.
“I didn’t think I was as good as he thought, but he’s told me I actually have very good striking, that I just need to touch up a little bit here and there. So, we’ve worked on a couple of things that can help me out in the fight.
“The 43-year-old Akiyama is making his promotional debut at Baoshan Arena, and Thani hopes to make it one he’ll remember for all the wrong reasons.