Malaysia’s Muhammad Aiman’s pursuit of one day becoming ONE World Champion continues on Friday, 2 August when he squares off with Indonesian veteran Sunoto “The Terminator” at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES, which takes place at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Aiman, known fondly as “Jungle Cat,” kicked off his amateur career during the inaugural season of Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts (MIMMA) in 2013. He then became a fixture in the local organization for the next three years.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “I wanted to win MIMMA [before turning pro] and I lost once, so I kept doing MIMMA until I won.”
The Malaysian hero experienced his first amateur loss during MIMMA’s first season’s finale. After defeating every fighter he faced on his way to the finals of the second season, he, unfortunately, missed weight and was disqualified from participating in the season’s last scheduled bout.
As the third season was approaching, the Seremban native, who then had two losses under his belt, contemplated going professional before his coach at the time convinced him otherwise.
“The third season was coming up and I was like, ‘I know I’m good enough, I’m just going to turn pro,’” he recalls.
“I talked to my coach back then, and my coach [at the time] was Roger Huerta. He said, ‘Stay amateur, you’re still young. Just fight amateur another year and maybe you can turn pro, maybe not. We’ll see.’”
He remained in the amateur ranks and eventually became the MIMMA Featherweight Champion with a record of 12-1.
“I did what he asked me to do. I fought MIMMA for another year and this time, I won. After that, I just turned pro,” said Aiman, who joined ONE Championship a few months after making his professional debut.
If he had to do it all over again, the Klinch MMA representative said he would still have made the same decision to compete in the amateur ranks until he was ready.
“I’m really happy because fighting a pro is so much different,” Aiman explained.
“If I would have turned pro right away, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable in the cage. Fighting amateur was much better, and I started pretty young for a mixed martial artist back then. I’m really glad I didn’t rush turning pro.
“Maybe some guys could go without it and be as good, but for me, I’m glad I have my amateur experience and I definitely have some advantages [because of it],” he added.
Learning from the right people at the right time with the right organization has made the 24-year-old prepared and well-equipped. As he takes the next step in his division, Aiman is confident that he can handle whatever Sunoto brings.