Anatoly Malykhin welcomes fight against Francis Ngannou but ONE CEO claims it wouldn’t be competitive


Anatoly Malykhin currently holds titles across three divisions in ONE Championship, but he’s still working to get his name out there more to a bigger, worldwide fight audience.

The Russian mauler has built a reputation as a ferocious finisher with a perfect 14-0 MMA record. He doesn’t have a single decision on his résumé and only one of his opponents has survived past the second round. While he’s arguably conquered every mountain ONE could throw at him, Malykhin remains open to other challenges, which includes his interest in a showdown against former UFC champion and current PFL heavyweight Francis Ngannou.

Malykhin has called for a fight against Ngannou in the past, and it’s still a matchup he’d love to land if ONE Championship and PFL could someday come to terms on some sort of crossover event. While he has a lot of respect for Ngannou and the former UFC champ’s accomplishments, Malykhin likes his chances in that fight, especially after watching the Ngannou get flattened by Anthony Joshua in a boxing match back in March.

“I want to congratulate Ngannou,” Malykhin told MMA Fighting through his interpreter. “Although it wasn’t his night, he made good money, it wasn’t [a lose-lose] evening for him. He got paid pretty good money.

“As for our potential fight, I can say that my strong points are that I move better than him and also I do great body shots. I think me on my feet would be a big problem for him.”

Malykhin saw one moment, in particular, that made him further believe he’d vanquish Ngannou in a potential fight. He actually predicted Joshua would knock out Ngannou with a very specific punch, which also happens to be one of his own personal favorites.

“When I was thinking about the Anthony Joshua fight with Ngannou, even before the event and it happened later, the way he knocked him out, this is my signature punch,” Malykhin said. “So when I was thinking about how Anthony Joshua could knock him out, I could foresee that is how it was going to happen.

“Unless Ngnanou works on it, this is how I could knock him out as well. At the moment, it’s hard for Ngannou to fight against a professional boxer in boxing, but MMA guys, fighting in boxing, it can be interesting.”

As much as Malykhin would love the opportunity for a crossover fight against Ngannou, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong doesn’t sound quite as interested, and it has nothing to do with orchestrating the moves to co-promote an event with PFL.

Instead, Sityodtong has so much faith in Malykhin as MMA’s best heavyweight that he expects the undefeated Russian would actually have an easy night against Ngannou.

“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].”

As a promotion primarily based out of Asia, ONE Championship has continued to fight for a bigger market share in the west, which could put fighters like Malykhin on Ngannou’s radar.

Malykhin knows he may not have the biggest or most profitable name in MMA right now, but he has unwavering belief that he’d dispatch Ngannou in impressive fashion. He just hopes enough people eventually start calling for the fight that it might actually happen.

“Right now he’s much more well-known than me, but I’m working on it,” Malykhin said of Ngannou. “People are starting to get to know me.”

“At the moment, my name is being mentioned quite a lot, but when I started fighting in MMA, I couldn’t foresee that I would be so well-known. I started MMA five or six years ago. Give me another year, year and a half, and I definitely [will] be mentioned alongside these guys [as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport].”


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