British-based Cypriot kickboxer Panicos Yusuf made a winning start to life in ONE Super Series, and now he is back to begin a winning streak.
Yusuf is all set for action at ONE: HEART OF THE LION in Singapore on Friday 9 November, when he will face off against Thai star Muangthai P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym in a bantamweight ONE Super Series clash.
Looking back at his debut win over Han Zi Hao at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila, the two-time Muay Thai world champion says he felt some pre-bout nerves, but that anxiety soon faded away when the contest got underway.
“I knew Han had half of his wins by KO, and I knew he was a good boxer, but I have fought in the West a lot against Europeans – they are all brawlers or boxers – so I was never intimidated by his hands,” the 33-year-old says.
“I was aware, but I wasn’t scared. I knew what I needed to do, which was to time my left body kick every time he came in to catch him out.”
Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the Manchester-based kickboxer, but then a hard right hand put him in trouble, as he explained he did “the Bambi dance on ice.”
“Obviously, in the third round, he caught me,” he admits.
“I lost focus for a bit, but I did what I needed to do and took the win.
“It was weird. It blew my head the other way and then came back. I wasn’t dizzy, but my body just went like jelly. I knew he was going to come at me, so I was just trying to get my feet underneath me to move or defend.
“As it was, he didn’t come forward, and that just made me hungrier, and I wanted to go in and bang with him. My corner was shouting at me to calm down and stay back because I had won already and there was no point.
“He was right, because I reckon if [Han] had caught me with one more good one, he would have dropped me for an eight-count at least, so that’s why you’ve got to listen to your corner.”
But Yusuf safely negotiated that tricky final round to earn a hard-won victory and extend his career record to 37-6.
Han has since gone on to earn back-to-back wins with two impressive performances, which makes Yusuf’s win over the Chinese athlete all the more impressive.
And now Yusuf returns looking to build on his win, as he lines up against exciting, 24-year-old, multiple world champion Muangthai, who is known as the “Elbow Zombie.”
“I’ve got to be really careful of his elbows. He moves forward a lot – he’s an aggressive fighter,” Yusuf says.
“But it’s a three, three-minute round fight. Plus, we’re fighting with mixed martial arts gloves. I’ve fought with those, he hasn’t. He’s been knocked out, and I haven’t, so we’ll see.”
Yusuf respects Muangthai’s pedigree and says that victory will firmly establish his credentials as a top performer in ONE Super Series, and says that their meeting on 9 November marks the start of a new level of his career.
“The real fights are now,” Yusuf states.
“I’ll just fight whoever they give me. I don’t care. I’m 33 now, so if I’m going to mix myself up with the best, I’m going to do it now. I don’t have time to build myself up.
“After him, what’s a more difficult fight? Maybe equally as difficult, but no one that’s going to be harder than him. If I can mix it up with him, and mix it up and do well, I’m happy with that.”