Muhammad “Jungle Cat” Aiman heads into his upcoming ONE Championship bout on 8 September as an excited man.
The rising Malaysian bantamweight contender cannot wait to take on one of the most charismatic contenders in his weight class.
Chen Lei was not a name that brought immediate recognition from the 23-year-old when the bout was first presented to him, but once he realised he was taking on “Rock Man”, his excitement level grew.
“When they told me I was fighting Chen Lei, I thought he was just some Chinese guy. Then, I Googled him, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s “Rock Man” Chen Lei,’” he laughs.
“I was really excited, because he is tough, and he has a good name. He is undefeated, and I always thought I would fight him one day.
“It is going to be tough, but it is going to be a war. I am going to keep going, and he is going to keep going, so I am really excited to fight him.”
The pair will face off at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai, China in a bantamweight contest, and Aiman has been training hard at his base at Bali MMA in preparation for the bout.
Last time out, Aiman defeated Cambodian Rin Saroth by unanimous decision at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, and the “Jungle Cat” is determined to deliver a more impressive performance against Chen.
“I felt good [against Saroth] but I did not feel great,” Muhammad admits.
“Before that fight, I really wanted to finish him, and I think I really could have, but I was holding back a little bit. I was a little disappointed that I did not get the finish.
“I always want to perform, and I always want a memorable fight – win or lose. That is the only fight where I felt like I could have done more, and given you guys more. But, at the end of the night, I won the fight, so I was happy.”
Aiman’s desire to be involved in a crowd-pleasing contest is one of the reasons for his eager anticipation ahead of his bout with Chen, whose dynamic style and larger-than-life persona have marked him out as one of Chinese MMA’s most entertaining characters.
“Rock Man” is a Shanghai Open BJJ Champion and has experience in both boxing and Muay Thai. He is undefeated at 8-0, with each and every one of his victories coming via stoppage.
His thrilling style was in evidence in his last performance, where he bounced back from being badly rocked early on against Ahmad Qais Jasoor to finish the Afghan contender in the third round via TKO stoppage.
Aiman was suitably impressed by Chen’s performance, but says he has seen enough holes in the Chinese star’s game to give him confidence ahead of the contest.
“I feel like he is really strong, and he is good on the ground,” he says.
“He is strong once he gets you down, and he uses his strength to put you down, but I feel like there are still a couple of holes that I can expose. He kind of gassed out in one fight, so I will try to break him down.
“I can beat him with my striking, and expose that his conditioning is bad. I feel like I can make him tired, but not make myself tired. That is how I want to beat him.”
Becoming the first man to defeat “Rock Man” would represent a real feather in the cap of the young Malaysian, who faces the additional obstacle of having to achieve that aim on Chen’s home soil in Shanghai.
Victory would also validate “Jungle Cat” as a legitimate contender in ONE’s bantamweight division, and Aiman is eager to showcase his skills in his highest-profile matchup to date.
“I want to go in there and prove to myself that I can beat a top guy in my weight class,” he says.
“It is very important to me, and I am really excited.”