It looks like newly crowned ONE Heavyweight World Champion Arjan “Singh” Bhullar has confirmed an opponent for his first world title defense.
Unbeaten Russian star Anatoly Malykhin has emerged from the pile of ONE Championship heavyweights as the top contender in the promotion’s highest division, following a thrilling knockout victory over highly regarded Amir Aliakbari at ONE: Revolution.
ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong raised the stakes when had earlier declared the Malykhin-Aliakbari bout an official title eliminator. Malykhin rose to the occasion and dazzled with a first-round stoppage.
Bhullar shared his thoughts on Malykhin’s performance.
“He did his job, he did what he needed to do against the heavy bag which is Amir Aliakbari,” Arjan Bhullar said, heaping praises on Malykhin in a recent ONE Championship interview, while taking further stabs at Aliakbari.
“[Malykhin] doesn’t have the skills I have, neither does he have the insides. He doesn’t have the spirit I have inside, [and he] doesn’t have the mentality I have.”
Bhullar captured the ONE heavyweight crown in May, when he dethroned now former champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera, the division’s long-running titleholder. The win saw Bhullar make history as the only mixed martial arts fighter of Indian descent to win a world title in a major organization.
Against the unbeaten Malykhin, Bhullar gets to further establish his legacy.
“Anatoly has a 10-0 record, very similar to mine. I had that ‘0’ a few years ago, and so I know exactly how he feels. Even the fight, when I ended up losing, I was winning every second in that fight. There is a way he’s going to carry himself because [he is undefeated], but there’s a way I’m going to carry myself because I’m not too far off from being undefeated myself,” Arjan Bhullar said.
The only loss of Bhullar’s exceptional professional career came in 2018, when he tapped out to an omoplata against Adam Wieczorek. It is this losing experience that Bhullar says has changed him as a fighter, teaching him lessons which he would not have learned otherwise.
According to the Punjab native, this will spell the difference in his bout against Malykhin.
“I have filled in the gaps [in my game] that potentially I don’t think he has because, you know, everything is going well for him – and I’m just going to leave it at that for now. But I do think he’s a formidable opponent and his record shows that. I’m excited for the challenge. I do not feel it’s going to go the distance. I will have my hand raised and he will be busted up,” Bhullar said.