ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao makes his highly-anticipated return to action this Friday, 3 May at ONE: FOR HONOR which takes place at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Thai legend will take on England’s Jonathan “The General” Haggerty in the main event of the evening and after almost year away from action, the 35-year-old is eager to step back into the fold again.
“I’m extremely excited about my return. It will be my first title defense, so it’s extra special,” Sam-A said.
“I’ve had a good long training camp training with all my teammates at Evolve MMA. Training with World Champions everyday gets me very sharp. I can’t wait to get in the ring.”
Sam-A won the belt last May in Singapore at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS after defeating Suriname’s Sergio Wielzen via fourth-round KO. It was the type of performance that solidified his status as one of the best Muay Thai athletes in the history of the sport.
However, when you are champion, you can always count on a steady stream of challengers chasing after your crown.
At 22-years of age Haggerty is over a decade younger than the champion, but the Englishman is no stranger to the big show and captured his first World Title when he was just 17-years old.
“The General” earned his title shot with a scintillating unanimous decision victory over Joseph Lasiri at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY. It was an eye-catching performance that did not go unnoticed by his soon-to-be future opponent.
“Jonathan Haggerty is a very good young fighter. He is tall and fast. I believe his strengths are his hands and elbows, “ Sam-A said.
“He fought well against Lasiri. He has shown that he has KO power so I will have to be on my best. It’s a new exciting challenge for me and I’m confident I can overcome it.”
There will be extra pressure on Sam-A going into this bout, not only is he the favorite but he carries the weight of expectations that came with being a Thai athlete in ONE Super Series.
“ONE Super Series has been great for Muay Thai. We finally have a global platform to show our art and show the world what Thai athletes can do,” said Sam-A.
“I have won many titles in Thailand, but ONE is the first truly global stage I’ve had the chance to compete on. I feel the responsibility to represent Thailand well when I compete and show the world what I can do.
“It’s good to see lots of Thai athletes having a lot of success so far, and I feel there will be many more coming.”
After spending almost his entire professional career at the pinnacle of his sport, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is little left for Sam-A to achieve. This is clearly not the case.
The hunger to test himself is still as strong in Sam-A now as it was when he first laced up his gloves.
“I would like to compete for as much as possible in 2019. I plan to hold on to my title and then defend it many more times. There are a lot of good challengers in ONE, so I’m sure I’ll be able to stay busy. I don’t mind where I compete, anywhere is good for me!
“But first I need to focus on my bout against Haggerty and put on my best performance. I’ll take it one bout at a time.”
Haggerty has said in recent interviews that he will be looking for the stoppage on Friday night, and there is no question that the Londoner will be throwing everything he has in his arsenal at reigning king.
Nevertheless, after over 400 professional bouts, Sam-A will be confident that he can meet fire with fire when the two athletes finally square off.