Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev is looking to bounce back after the first mistake of his career cost him his perfect professional record.
The Turkish lightweight had been in dominant form in his ONE Championship career, finishing each of his opponents inside two minutes. But in his most recent contest, he slipped up.
While facing Bulgarian Georgi “Stanchev” Stoyanov in January 2017, he accidentally threw an illegal kick at his downed opponent. It resulted in the Turkish star being given a red card and an instant disqualification.
“I honestly did not plan to do it,” said the 23-year-old.
“When I realised I hit him in the head, it was too late to do anything about it. It was like a bad movie. I was on top, and in an advantageous position. It was a silly mistake, but I am young. There is still time to fix things, and show everyone the real ‘Dagi.’”
In addition to fixing his approach, he also needed time to fix his body.
“Not many people know this, but I broke my hand when trying to finish Stoyanov,” he explained.
“After the match, I had a long rehab.”
Now, after a 14-month layoff, Arslanaliev returns against Japanese martial artist Tetsuya Yamada (24-5-2) at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, 24 March.
“Tetsuya is a very experienced athlete,” said Arslanaliev.
“He is respected, and well-rounded. I know he has a lot to show on the day when he meets me, but I can assure you that anyone who enters a cage with me is not going to have an easy match.
“I always have a game plan, and I act according to it. It is never a goal to finish with a knockout as soon as possible, but if an opportunity presents itself, I always take it. Anything can happen in the cage. It does not matter how Tetsuya normally competes. What matters is how he will compete against me.”
The bout offers a tough test for the Turk, who faces a man with significantly more experience inside the cage. But Arslanaliev has his sights set on the top of the division, and knows that these tests are essential to his growth as a martial artist, and also to help prove his worth as a rising lightweight contender.
“I made it known from early days at ONE that my goal was to get the ONE Lightweight World Championship, not to win a few matches,” he said.
“It took a year for everyone to start taking me seriously. I was ready for bigger matches and bigger opponents — I needed them to showcase my full skill set.
“There is a lot of me you have not seen yet. I am not the same I was a year ago, and soon you will see the new me.”