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Arjan Bhullar celebrates with his mace and the ONE heavyweight title. Photo: Dux Carvajal/ONE Championship

ExclusiveONE Championship sets up interim heavyweight title fight after Arjan Bhullar ‘declines multiple offers’ to defend belt

  • Anatoly Malykhin to face Kirill Grishenko in main event of ONE: Only The Brave card on January 28
  • ‘While this plays out, the show must go on in our heavyweight division,’ ONE boss Chatri Sityodtong says

ONE Championship has booked an interim title fight between Anatoly Malykhin and Kirill Grishenko, after failing to find a breakthrough in negotiations with heavyweight champion Arjan Bhullar.

The interim bout will serve as the main event of ONE: Only The Brave card, which is likely to take place in Singapore on January 28.

“Arjan and his management team have declined multiple offers to defend the ONE heavyweight world championship under his current contract,” Chatri Sityodtong, the ONE Championship CEO, told the Post.

“While this plays out, the show must go on in our heavyweight division, so we will be crowning an interim world champion between top contenders Anatoly Malykhin and Kirill Grishenko.”

The 35-year-old Canadian-Indian Bhullar (11-1) claimed the ONE heavyweight title in April with a second-round TKO of long-time champion Brandon Vera, but is yet to step back in the ONE Circle.

Undefeated “Spartak” Malykhin (10-0) has since earned No 1 contender status with a first-round knockout of Amir Aliakbari in September, but has seen his calls for the title fight fall on deaf ears.

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“I’m the king and I decide the rules of engagement. When I decide I want to step in, I will take his head,” Bhullar told the Post last month.

Bhullar is represented by CAA Combat Sports, the same agency which handles UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who will face interim champ Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 next month. Gane claimed the interim heavyweight title with a third-round TKO of Derrick Lewis in August, just four months after Ngannou won the divisional title from Stipe Miocic.

Earlier this month, Dana White, the UFC president, said he did not think Ngannou “had the best representation”, amid reports of a strained relationship between the two parties, telling the 34-year-old he could leave “if you don’t want to be with us”.

Kirill Grishenko gestures after ‘Reug Reug’ goes down to the canvas. Photo: ONE Championship

Like Malykhin, Belarusian Grishenko (5-0) has also won his first two fights in ONE, which began bolstering its long-overlooked heavyweight division with a slew of signings in 2020.

Grishenko earned a bizarre stoppage win over Oumar “Reug Reug” Kane (3-0) in April, before handing Canadian debutant Dustin Joynson (6-1) his first professional loss with a unanimous decision in October.

The full Only the Brave card has yet to be officially announced, but according to a line-up posted on ONE’s official app, it will feature the semi-finals of the featherweight kick-boxing Grand Prix, between Marat Grigorian and Chingiz Allazov, and Sitthichai and Davit Kiria.

No 1-ranked MMA featherweight Kim Jae-woong is also set to face China’s Tang Kai in the co-main event, with American strawweight Jarred Brooks getting a quick turnaround and facing Hiroba Minowa of Japan.