Anatoly Malykhin welcomes clash with Francis Ngannou, but ONE Championship’s CEO is not interested

Anatoly Malykhin welcomes clash with Francis Ngannou, but ONE Championship's CEO is not interested

Despite being MMA’s first simultaneous three-division world champion Anatoly Malykhin is far from being a household name in the world of combat sports. However, a scrap with former UFC titleholder Francis Ngannou could change that.

Boasting an impressive 14-0 record with a 100% finish rate, ‘Sladkiy’ has established himself as one of ONE Championship’s most formidable foes across three different divisions. Starting with capturing the interim heavyweight belt, Malykhin inevitably traded in his temporary title for undisputed gold against the division’s former king, Arjan Bhullar—but not before becoming a two-division champion with a highlight-reel knockout of Reinier de Ridder to claim the light heavyweight title.

Anatoly Malykhin

Determined to etch his name in the history books, Malykhin dropped down two weight classes, challenging de Ridder for the middleweight title at ONE 166 in Qatar. Though it took him a little bit longer the second time around, the result was the same. Malykhin finished ‘The Dutch Knight’ in round three to claim his third strap.

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During a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Malykhin addressed a potential matchup with Ngannou, suggesting that he could be “a big problem” for the former UFC-turned-PFL superstar.

“I can say that my strong points are that I move better than him and also I do great body shots,” Malykhin said through an interpreter. “I think me on my feet would be a big problem for him.”

ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong has little interest in seeing Anatoly Malykhin fight Francis Ngannou

A fight between Anatoly Malykhin and Francis Ngannou would be a huge opportunity for the 13-year-old promotion as it continues to fight for its piece of the pie in the U.S. market, but ONE Championship’s founder and CEO, Chatri Sityodtong, doesn’t appear to be terribly interested in the heavyweight superfight.

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Anatoly Malykhin

Commenting on the potential showdown, Sityodtong made it clear that the hurdles of a cross-promotion with PFL are not the issue. It’s that he simply doesn’t believe Ngannou would be much of a challenge for his three-division star.

“I don’t think it would be competitive,” Sityodtong told MMA Fighting. “Francis has one-punch KO power, great striking, but he doesn’t have a ground game. I mean, genuinely [he has] blue belt level jiu-jitsu and no wrestling. Anatoly would take him down in a heartbeat. I don’t think it would be competitive, just to be very blunt, and I’m speaking as a lifelong martial artist. I’m trying to be as objective as possible, and I’ve been doing 40 years of Muay Thai and 15 years of jiu-jitsu. I’m just speaking from personal experience and I’m trying to be objective.

“We all know in all the different weight classes, wrestling is the one discipline that allows you to dictate where the fight takes place. If a wrestler wants to keep it standing, he keeps it standing. If he wants to take you down or she wants to take you down, they’ll take you down, especially a world-class wrestler — a Russian national team wrestler like Anatoly Malykhin. [But] we’ve always been open [to cross promotion].”

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Before signing with the Professional Fighters League, Ngannou met with Sityodtong to work out a potential deal. ONE ultimately walked away from the negotiating table with the CEO noting that he and ‘The Predator’ were not fully aligned on “non-financial matters.”

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Considering it’s been more than a year since Ngannou signed with the PFL and he has yet to make his Smart Cage debut, it kinda feels like Sityodtong made the right move.