Agilan "Alligator" Thani is looking forward to put recent setbacks behind him when he takes on Akiyama Yoshihiro at ONE: Legendary Quest on June 15th.
The ONE Championship fight at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China, is set to be the 23-year-old Sentul native's first competitive action since he suffered back-to-back losses to Zebaztian Kadestam and Kiamrian Abbasov and underwent a surgery for his back injury.
Despite almost getting back to full fitness in less than six months, Agilan admitted he did not expect to be back in action so soon, much less against an experienced opponent in Akiyama, a former Asian Games judo champion who has a 14-6 record and is making his ONE debut after a four-year absence from the sport.
"I was actually very surprised by it [when I was told of the opportunity to face Akiyama] and thought I was not ready for it," he said during a media session at Monarchy MMA in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
"I spoke to my coaches and they said it would be the right fight at the right time for me.
"I have been watching his past fights and think he is a very well-rounded fighter.
"Even though his last fight was four years ago, he is still a tough guy in the sport and not an easy opponent for anybody."
Although he is lacking in experience in comparison to his upcoming opponent, Agilan thinks he can take on the 43-year-old Japanese when they exchange blows inside the cage.
"With me being younger, I definitely feel that I have more hunger for the sport than he has because he has already made it the top, while I have not.
"He has already fought bigger names and done bigger things than I have, so I see that as my advantage of being younger.
"But still, we cannot underestimate the old guys because they are always still strong no matter how old they are.
"And we always think we are very good and have a strong game, but there will always be someone who is better than you especially in this sport.
"You cannot upgrade yourself overnight, so you just have to work hard through the process, and when your time comes, you just shine," he added.
Agilan also brushed aside his recent losses, feeling the experience made him stronger instead of weaker.
"I do not struggle to motivate myself [after losing] because everybody has to move on in life.
"Just because somebody beats you, it does not mean you are not going to stand back up and walk again," he said.