Ilya Freymanov (11-2) sent an explosive message to featherweight MMA ranks this past Friday.
The Russian striker knocked out former divisional king and current No. 3 contender Martin Nguyen in the first round of their clash at ONE on Prime Video 2, immediately propelling himself toward the top of the weight class.
While it's still early days on the global stage for Freymanov, he was thrilled to signal his intent in concussive fashion – and he has big plans for his future in ONE Championship.
"My statement is very simple: I'm here to win the world title, I'm here for the big-money fights, as simply being a part of the roster is not enough for me," the 26-year-old said afterward.
"Eventually, I will take this title, and then we will see. Maybe I will go for more weight classes or other disciplines. I'm very hungry and want to stay this way for as long as I am alive. These rivalries, battles, and this way of life make me happy."
Freymanov's victory likely surprised many fans who were more familiar with Nguyen – one of the most respected names in the promotion – but the Russian was never in doubt.
He had prepared a detailed game plan while studying his opponent carefully, and all of that work came to fruition inside the ONE circle.
"Everything happened as I had predicted, down to the first blow I landed, which started the end of the fight," the ONE Championship newcomer explained. "I (landed) a knee and followed up with a straight right. During my fight camp at Tiger Muay Thai, I kept saying that I might get him with this knee – he leans forward a lot in his overhand. I thought, 'Well, depending on how hard he hits, I might be able to block his overhand.'
"Once that happened and I got the hang of it, I concluded that there was no danger. I felt that the (performance) bonus was (already) in my pocket."
Freymanov wants any top-ranked featherweight next
By beating No. 3 contender Nguyen so decisively, Freymanov instantly established himself as a serious threat in the featherweight division.
However, the Russian phenom is not content with that victory.
After maintaining his 100 percent finishing rate and pushing his overall record to 11-1, he aims to continue his rise against other top opponents and hopes to eventually reach the mountaintop.
"Martin is definitely at the top of my list of wins in MMA, but this is just the beginning of my journey," Freymanov said. "I'll add more names to my list of victories.
"My dream and my goal is to be the best, to compete against the best – that is what I have always wanted. I am glad this league can satisfy all my ambitions. I am hungry now and, as I have said in the past, my goal is the ONE world title in MMA."
Freymanov would love to get his hands on Tang, but for now, he realizes there are obstacles in his way.
With that in mind, he thinks a clash against South Korean slugger Kim would make sense for his next outing.
"Martin was number three, so now it would be logical to fight the second-ranked guy – Kim Jae Woong – and then either be given a title shot or face Thanh Le," the Russian added. "Why wait?
"I have been following Thanh Le's fights, and I like his style, but Tang Kai proved he is better. He needed the win more, and he is young, hungry, and rightfully took the belt, taking it from the more mature champion.
"I have nothing but respect for Tang. I think he is good person. I would be glad to be matched up against him. If it happened, as I said, I would be the champion. I am here to win."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.