Saiful Merican wants to be recognised as an MMA fighter instead of a muay thai fighter.
KUALA LUMPUR: Local boy Saiful “the Vampire” Merican is ready to sink his teeth into Cambodia’s Khim Dima in a much anticipated rematch that is set to take place in ONE FC: War of Nations at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on March 14.
Khim with 250 Kun Khmer (Cambodian kickboxing) fights under his belt was victorious by a points decision in their last encounter in the same style in Cambodia in 2011.
History aside, this is a new fight and Saiful’s not backing down.
“It’s definitely a rematch – just a different war, different technique, different strategy. I never underestimate my opponents. No fight is the same. Every fighter poses a different threat. I know he’s young and has a lot more fight experience than me in stand-up. But this is MMA (mixed martial arts). Anything can happen,” said Saiful who discovered his calling at age 11 after watching a fight video featuring Thai legend Samart Payakaroon.
“I never though I would become a fighter. It started as a hobby. But watching my idol Samart, it all changed. When I started, there was no gym. So I went into my first fight at age 12 without a trainer. But after that my aunt sent me to south Thailand to learn the art for six months. And I’ve been fighting ever since,” said Saiful, who now runs his own Merican Muay Thai Gym in Solaris Mount Kiara with his wife.
Apart from training three times a day, the Terengganu native is now looking to lose some weight, from 69kg to 56.7kg before the weigh in.
He’s now at 61kg and it’s a tough diet of 100g of brown rice, 200g of chicken breast and brocolli and loads of salad for lunch as well as five to six litres of water a day.
“A solid preparation is vital. I train hard for every fight. Even though I’m experienced in muay thai, every fight requires a different strategy. So, I’m always looking to improve my groundwork. When I step into the cage, I want people to recognise me as an MMA fighter, not a muay thai fighter,” added Saiful, who picked up jujitsu after signing for ONE FC last year.
The 25-year-old has built up a nice run for himself in MMA with a 2-1-0 record last year, which was his debut year. He scored wins (by unanimous decision) over Cambodia’s Tok Sophon (ONE FC: Warrior Spirit) in November and India’s Aditya Deshpande (Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts) in June last year. His loss came at the hands of compatriot Gianni Subba at ONE FC: Return of Warriors via submission in February last year.
And a win against the 23-year-old “Black Dragon” will definitely boost his confidence ahead of his WBC muay thai title fight against Thai veteran Rambaa Somdet in Manila, the Philippines, on April 27.