‘This fight in my head, in everyone’s head, is a title eliminator, and the winner will be fighting for gold next. It’s the only way this can go.’ Says Australian flyweight Reece McLaren head of his bout at ONE Fight Night 10 next weekend in Denver, Colorado.
McLaren, rank four, is set to fight number two ranked fighter and former flyweight champion Kairat Akhmetov at ONE Championship’s United States debut show.
The pair have fought once previously, in the 2019 Flyweight Grand Prix, with Akhmetov coming away with the unanimous decision victory. However, McLaren says he is not worried about their previous fight heading into their second one.
‘I know what he brings to the table. I don’t think he brings anything new…I’ve fought the best Kairat. He hasn’t looked anywhere near as good since. Then when you look at myself its chalk and cheese. If he thinks my kicks are the same, he’s going to be rudely awoken.’
McLaren in a ONE veteran, signing with the promotion in 2015 and challenging for the title in 2016, and having over 14 fights in the promotion over eight years. Now, ahead of the first ONE show in the United States, McLaren says having the chance to fight in the US is a dream come true.
‘It’s so crazy. I was pinching myself the whole time…I can’t believe I’m actually going to be fighting in the states…I didn’t really think it was going to happen when I signed with ONE, I thought they would be Asia based for the rest of my career.’
‘I’m so honoured. It’s quite humbling to be put on this card. The historic presence its going to make, I think its going to break a lot of records…its viewing audience is going to be outrageous.’
In the US, ONE is broadcast on Amazon prime video, who have a subscriber base of over 200 million users. McLaren says he hopes this large audience will show the world that ONE championship is its own, unique promotion with worldclass talent.
‘I just hope ONE can lead the way and I can be a spark for someone to pick up the sport and do something with it…it still kinda shits me to this day, its sorta like “Oh you fight for ONE. Ok.”, then someone will come along who’s never done anything in the UFC and its like “oh you fight in the UFC!” like come on man, give me my f**king dues.’
For his camp this fight McLaren has been training with Australian combat sports legend John Wayne Parr, who McLaren says has benefited him in both his striking and his grappling.
‘It’s a new breath of life, its amazing, a lot of good reminders, he hasn’t steered me wrong…There’s so much Muay Thai grappling that translates along to Jiu Jitsu. He’s got that old man strength, he’s strong.’
Heading into this bout, McLaren says he’s prepared for whatever may take place in the cage.
‘The fight plays out how the fight plays out. If the takedowns there I’ll take it, if it’s not, I won’t force it like I have in the past. My team, my coaches fully back my ability…I’m confident anywhere and everywhere.’
The main event of ONE Fight Night 10 is the third meeting between flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and Adriano Moraes, with the two sitting at one win each. A win against Akhmetov would see McLaren face the winner of the main event, and McLaren says he Is happy with either opponent, however he acknowledges unfinished business he has with Moraes.
‘I honestly don’t have a preference, but if I had to pick, I was meant to fight Moraes back in 2018, so that’s the fight I really want.’
ONE Fight Night 10 will broadcast live from Denver, Colorado at 10am Saturday the 6th of May (AEST) on the Channel 7plus streaming app.