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Anatoly Malykhin Wants To Box Francis Ngannou

“Francis Ngannou will no longer be able to escape me”

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Anatoly Malykhin: “See you soon, Francis”

Only days removed from winning the ONE Championship Middleweight MMA title, Anatoly Malykhin is ready for his next conquest.

“I want to make more history,” said Malykhin, speaking through a translator. “My next big goal is to get a big win in boxing.”

The undefeated Malykhin is, remarkably, a three-division MMA world champion. He delivered a historic moment for the sport last week at ONE 166 in Qatar when he defeated Reinier de Ridder to win the middleweight belt, adding to a collection of ongoing title reigns that already includes ONE Heavyweight and the ONE Light Heavyweight MMA world titles.

Courtesy ONE Championship

Courtesy ONE Championship

The three-division champion now has his sights set on Francis Ngannou. While Ngannou is signed with the PFL, he is also pursuing the heavyweight title in boxing–and that is where Malykhin would like to fight him.

“Francis Ngannou will no longer be able to escape me,” said Malykhin. “See you soon, Francis.”

The past few days have been quite a whirlwind for Malykhin. UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev praised him this week, posting on an Instagram Story that Malykhin is the “Most dangerous guy on the planet”.

“It’s very inspiring to hear that,” said Malykhin. “Islam is the pound-for-pound number-one fighter. I’ve been following him for quite a long time. I used to watch Khabib’s fights, too. To see that, it’s an amazing sign of respect.”

Malykhin (14-0) has blitzed through every opponent. At 36, he is in his physical prime, highlighted by his two impressive wins against de Ridder, who was undefeated until facing Malykhin.

“I’ll quote Islam Makhachev–‘In this game, there are different levels,’” said Malykihn. “Reinier is great, but I’m on a different level. It’s my coach, my team, my wife, my family. They give me confidence. I leave my whole self out there.

“Reinier is very talented and very tough. But he cannot beat me. I am tougher.”

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong also praised Malykhin, expressing his belief that the dominant Russian is the best heavyweight on the planet.

“I always agree with Mr. Chatri,” said Malykhin with a smile. “If he says I’m the best heavyweight, then I’m not going to argue.”

As for his next opponent, Malykhin is waiting for someone to step up.

“If there is an opportunity to fight in a couple weeks, I’ll take it,” said Malykhin. “I have a couple bruises that need to heal from my last fight. Once those heal, I’m ready. Find me an opponent. Find me a heavyweight. I’m ready to fight.”

Ideally, fight fans in America will be able to witness Malykhin fight in-person. ONE Championship is holding two events in the U.S. later this year–one in September and the other in November–and Malykhin would be a perfect fit to headline either of those cards.

“I am made for the American public,” said Malykhin. “They love great knockouts and great stand-up fighting, and that is what I do. My goal is to fight on one of those cards in America.”

Merab Dvalishvili should be next for a title shot

Merab Dvalishvili will weigh in as the backup for the bantamweight title bout at UFC 299. And if the fight goes off as expected, with Sean O’Malley defending against Chito Vera, then Dvalishvili should be next in line for a title shot.

This is only O’Malley’s first title defense, so if he loses, he is unlikely to receive an immediate rematch, especially considering he would have then lost twice to Vera. If Vera loses, he will leave the rarified air of the upper echelon of title contention, instead dropping to the middle of the division’s top 10.

Courtesy Zuffa LLC

Courtesy Zuffa LLC

O’Malley is already putting out feelers for a bout against Ilia Topuria, but there should be no question that Dvalishvili is next. He has run through the division, winning his last 10 fights, most recently three weeks ago in dominating fashion against Henry Cejudo.

A matchup nightmare for O’Malley, it feels like it is only matter of time until Dvalishvili wins the title.