MANILA: One of the country’s most exciting young martial arts talent and standout athlete from the ONE Championship stable (Asia’s largest sports media property), “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman is hours away from his much anticipated return into the ring for ONE: Dawn of Heroes at the magnificent Mall of Asia Arena in rainy Manila.
After more than eight months away from all the heady action, the affable 24-year-old is due to face Indonesia’s “The Terminator” Sunoto, 34, in the bantamweight bout; one that this Bali-based, Negeri Sembilan native is confident of winning.
Suffice to say, Aiman’s steely determination to emerge triumphant has much to do with the outcome of his last outing back in November 2018 when he lost via unanimous decision to Shuya Kamikubo. Since then, the former MIMMA Featherweight champion has been using his time out to improve on his arsenal of skills, overall game – and perspective.
His confidence and renewed zeal are shared by his coaches and cornermen on the night, Bali MMA head striking coach, Mike Ikilei and Malaysia’s top flyweight and ONE Championship’s talent, Gianni Subba.
“After that outing in November, Aiman actually was offered other fights but he turned them down,” begins Subba, as Ikilei, seated next to him in a bustling Manila café nods his agreement. “He really wanted to work on his grappling. In fact, in the last couple of months he has really been working on that area of his skills - almost every day. He knows what he needs to do.”
Chipping in, Ikilei shares: “And Aiman just got his Purple Belt in the last eight months or so. And that’s a big thing!”
Time to Unleash
Expression earnest, Subba adds that this upcoming clash with Sunoto is the perfect outing for the now-recharged and renewed Aiman. “I personally feel that his previous opponent was stronger. Against Sunoto, I believe that Aiman will be the superior one in all areas and this is going to be the best fight for him to just go out there and try whatever he wants.”
For Auckland native Ikilei, the Jungle Cat is one of the most exciting talents in the MMA scene. So exciting in fact that one of the challenges he admits to having when it comes to the talented Malaysian is trying to contain his creativity!
Chuckling, Ikilei shares: “He’s a highly creative fighter. But we don’t want him to touch gloves and then immediately launch into the spins! We have emphasised to him about the importance of getting the fundamentals right first before jumping into all the crazy stuff. Also, we’ve been working with him on injecting more power in his punches and kicks. And his grappling is a lot better too now.”
Timing, adds Subba, is everything. “Doing your own stuff is fine but it must be done at the right time so sense of timing must be sharp. At the end of the day, it’s about making smart decisions.”
A knowing smile on his face, the 26-year-old athlete concludes: “When Aiman is “loose”, he’s very exciting. He’ll go for spinning attacks, diving submissions, and he’s just an amazing athlete to watch. As he gets more comfortable, this is when you get to see what he REALLY can do!”
Here’s to the Jungle Cat!
Picture by Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal and ONE Championship