I’m still kicking butt and feeling great, says ageless Alain Ngalani as he prepares to wrestle ‘Burmese Python’
Hong Kong fighter focused on super bout against One Championship’s middleweight world champion Aung La Nsang on Friday night
Don’t talk to Alain “The Panther” Ngalani about age. Or the ravages time might inflict. Or even about making way for the next generation of fighters.
“Everything is still working and I’m kicking butt,” declares the 42-year-old. “All these youngsters are coming through, but I can still push them around so why stop?
“I’ll stop when I don’t feel good any more. I still feel good. In fact, I feel great.”
It took Ngalani just 11 seconds to settle his last fight but the reverberations of the knockout blow landed by the Hong Kong fighter are still rippling through the world of mixed martial arts.
Ngalani’s short, sharp and quite shocking finish of Japan’s Hideki “Shrek” Sekine at One Championship’s Total Victory card in Jakarta on September 16 was the fastest in the history of the organisation’s heavyweight division.
The buzz the result created led to its matchmakers setting up a super bout for the Hong Kong-based fighter with One’s middleweight world champ, “The Burmese Python” Aung La Nsang, in Myanmar this Friday night.
Watch the fearsome Alain Ngalani floor his opponents
Ngalani (4-3, one no contest) is now preparing to step into the belly of that particular beast, facing Nsang (20-10, one no contest) in Yangon in front of what will no doubt be a delirious Thuwunna National Indoor Stadium.
Myanmar has taken the 32-year-old Nsang to heart as the nation’s first world MMA champion, and nothing less than victory will appease them.
Ngalani acknowledges that fact and he is promising fireworks on Friday against a man who took the middleweight title from Vitaly Bigdash (9-1) in June after coming out swinging in a wild first round that saw the Russian hit the deck twice.
“It’ll be a blast,” says Ngalani. “Fighting Aung La in front of his people is special. It’ll be a good show for the fans.
“Him coming up and me going down, weight-wise, makes it interesting. I don’t like to leave any questions out there.
“If I see an opportunity, I’ll go for it. If there’s any opening for me, he’ll end up on his back and that will be the end.”
The attention – and no doubt the payday – that comes with the fight has been warmly welcomed by Ngalani but there’s no escaping the real prize would be a match-up with One’s world heavyweight champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera (15-7, one no contest).
“This fight against Aung La doesn’t stop my ascension, or my desire to fight Brandon for the title. I’ll do one thing at a time,” says Ngalani. “I’ll go to Yangon and sort that out and then I’ll be ready for Brandon next year.
“You’re only as good as your opponent. So if I am going to be great, I need a great opponent and that’s what Brandon is. I want to be challenged.”
Today the Cameroon-born Ngalani is putting the final touches on his prep work for the Nsang fight at his Impakt MMA gym in Central. That means there’s a few unfortunates lined up inside the ring waiting their chance to grapple with a man who weighs in around 107kgs.
Ngalani turned to MMA in 2013 after a storied career in combat sports that included four Muay Thai world titles.
He sits down to reflect on a journey that, he says, has continued to throw surprises his way, ever since Ngalani turned to martial arts as a five-year-old whose mother wanted him to learn how to protect himself.
The move to Hong Kong came through a local kick-boxing promotion in 2001 – and Ngalani has never looked back.
“I never thought this kind of life could be possible,” he said. “I have the love of the people here in Hong Kong and it is my home. This city has given me everything.
“Training kept me away from a lot of trouble. I would have been doing a lot of bad things without it. But it was because of the training that I always wanted to do the right thing.
“You think about your appearance, how you behave and it gave me a lot of confidence in other things as well. In life itself.”
Ngalani has been able to ride the wave of popularity MMA is experiencing globally, as well as an increased interest in the benefits martial arts training can have on mere mortals. The result has been a passion for the fight game that still burns – and has shown no sign of abating over the decades.
“People are now using martial arts in every day life in different ways,” he said. “Some use it to lose weight, some to fight stress.
“It can help you learn how to concentrate and it just means you become more healthy. It’s not boring either and people today want to stay away from traditional weightlifting. It can reshape your body.
“Not everybody wants to fight but everybody who comes here wants to train with someone who does fight.
“That gives them the feeling of a fighter, or as close as you can get to it. It inspires. It’s always been part of my life. It has kept me alive.”