ONE Championship: Mauro Cerilli sees ‘no other option’ but heavyweight title shot if he beats Amir Aliakbari
- Cerilli will meet Aliakbari at ONE on Prime Video 1 in Singapore, and says he is ‘ready for everything’ the Iranian wrestler brings to the table
- Italian hopes win will set up rematch with heavyweight champ Arjan Bhullar, whom he met in a ‘really controversial match’ in 2019
Mauro Cerilli believes a victory over Amir Aliakbari should set him up for a shot at the ONE Championship heavyweight title.
The 39-year-old Italian, a former Cage Warriors champ, will meet the Iranian wrestler Aliakbari, 34, on the main card of ONE’s upcoming debut on Prime Video, slated for August 27 in Singapore.
“I’m sure that if I win next week I can have my opportunity for a title shot,” Cerilli (14-4) told the Post.
“I have no other option,” he added. “I want a title shot and that’s what I’m focused on.”
The heavyweight title will next be up for grabs when undisputed champion Arjan Bhullar defends it against interim champ Anatoly Malykhin in the main event of ONE 161 on September 29.
Cerilli is open to fighting either man, but would prefer to meet Bhullar, as he has some history with the Indian-Canadian champion.
The pair met in the ONE Circle in 2019, with Bhullar, who was making his promotional debut, ultimately capturing a competitive unanimous decision.
“If I have to be honest, I want to rematch with Arjan Bhullar so I hope that he’s going to win and we’re going to have a rematch,” Cerilli said.
“I’ve watched my match against Bhullar 1,000 times,” he added. “In my mind, from what I saw, it was a really controversial match. I feel I won it.
“I showed against Bhullar, the champion, that I’m at the elite level so that’s my objective for my career and I won’t quit until I get my title shot.”
While Cerilli would prefer to challenge Bhullar for the title, he was reluctant to make a prediction for the championship match-up.
“It’s going to be a really good fight to watch because both are elite wrestlers,” he said. “I don’t know how their training camps are going so it’s difficult to give a prediction.”
The Italian was also hesitant to share a prediction for his fight with Aliakbari (10-3), but assured that he is ready for whatever the hulking Iranian brings to the Circle.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to make predictions for his fights, but I’m ready for everything,” he said.
“He’s a dangerous guy. I know he has elite level wrestling but I’m ready for it. I’m training hard and I can’t wait to show what I’ve worked on.
“I feel great. I can’t wait to be inside the ring. I’m ready for war.”
Cerilli has not fought since early 2021, when he posted a first-round stoppage win over Abdulbasir Vagabov, which separated him from his hotly debated loss to Bhullar.
Aliakbari, meanwhile, has lost his last two, both by knockout, both in round one: first at the hands of Kang Ji-won, then Malykhin.