Rodtang Eyes ONE Kickboxing Title And MMA Debut
On February 26th at ONE: Fists Of Fury, Rodtang Jitmuangnon will be competing outside of Thailand for the first time since ONE: Century in October 2019. The reigning ONE flyweight Muay Thai champion will be facing Tagir Khalilov in a kickboxing contest.
This will be Rodtang’s kickboxing debut as he looks to add a kickboxing world title to his list of accolades. In an exclusive interview with Asian Persuasion MMA, the ‘The Iron Man’ said that he wants to eventually compete in MMA, as well as Muay Thai and kickboxing.
“I Want To Win Another Belt”
“I love Muay Thai,” Rodtang said. “There’s so many styles of combat sports. Whether it’s MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. And I want to try them all. In the future, it’s my goal to fight in mixed martial arts.”
Having successfully defended his Muay Thai title three times, Rodtang has now set his sights on the kickboxing belt.
“I’ve defended the belt three times already,” said Rodtang. “Now I want to win another belt for my family, my friends and fans so they can be proud of me. It was my dream to win a title in ONE Championship. And I accomplished that when I won the Muay Thai title. I want to win another title so I can say I won two belts.”
Many Thai fighters struggle to adapt to kickboxing rules. For Rodtang, however, the transition from Muay Thai to kickboxing doesn’t faze him.
“To me, Muay Thai and kickboxing are quite similar,” Rodtang said. “The only difference is that kickboxing prohibits elbows and knees. And kickboxing is much faster than Muay Thai. In kickboxing, when you go in, you have to get back out real fast. So I had to make some adjustments in training.”
“I’ll Have To Make Adjustments On The Fly”
Initially, Rodtang was scheduled to fight Alejandro Rivas. However, safety protocols forced a last-minute change of opponent and he will now face Russia’s Khalilov. This has has an impact on the Jitmuangnon representative’s game plan, having spent his whole camp studying the Spaniard.
“The change certainly affected my game plan,” said Rodtang. “I was studying [Rivas’s] fighting style and what I could do to deal with him. But on the day of my flight, they told me that I had a new opponent.
“The problem was that there wasn’t much footage of his fights. I couldn’t study his fighting style. So now it comes down to me being able to adjust on the fly on the night of the fight. It’s going to be difficult.”
Rodtang already has another fight scheduled following ONE: Fists of Fury. He will face Jacob Smith in a non-title Muay Thai match at ONE on TNT 1. The 23-year-old believes that his title isn’t on the line because the promotion wants the emphasis to be on the main event which will see Adriano Moraes defend his ONE flyweight title against Demetrious Johnson.
“I think it may have something to do with me fighting too close between events,” Rodtang said regarding why the bout won’t see him defending his belt. “So they want me to have a warm-up fight with a new signee like Jacob Smith. And, they want to focus on a single main event.”
Rodtang vs Haggerty 3
The champion has also kept a close eye on his rival Jonathan Haggerty. The Brit recently pulled off an impressive unanimous decision victory over Taiki Naito at ONE: Big Bang 2. Rodtang thinks that ‘The General’ has improved since their last fight and is open to a trilogy fight.
“He’s changed a lot in his last fight,” said Rodtang. “He stood and traded, he threw some hard shots that knocked down his opponent. I’ll say he’s gotten a lot stronger. If he wants to face me, it would be my pleasure. There’s definitely been some development from him.”
Kickboxing Title, Then MMA Debut
With little knowledge surrounding his opponent, Rodtang isn’t jumping to any conclusions concerning the result of his fight. However, he does feel that he is fully prepared and has what it takes to pull off a victory.
“My body is well-conditioned and I hope to get the win,” Rodtang said. “But I won’t underestimate my opponent because I don’t know much about him. But if the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely go for the knockout.”
Rodtang has made one goal clear for 2021: win the ONE flyweight kickboxing title. Once he has accomplished that, he will entertain the idea of venturing into mixed martial arts.
“This year, I want to win the kickboxing belt,” said Rodtang. “If I get the title this year, I will definitely want to try my hand in MMA for my next fight.”
“This Is A Really Close Fight”
Rodtang will certainly be keeping a close eye on the title fight between Ilias Ennahachi and Superlek Kiatmoo9, set to headline ONE: Fists Of Fury. Ideally, he would love to face the winner of the match.
“This is a really close fight,” Rodtang said. “It can end in a knockout for both sides. But Superlek is slower than Ilias. It depends on how well-conditioned Ilias is because he last fought over a year ago. If he can’t finish him early, he’ll fade. And if he does that against Superlek, he’ll get knocked out by Superlek’s kicks. But again, if Superlek starts out slow, he could get knocked out by Ennahachi’s hands because he’s so fast with his punches. There’s just no room for error.
According to Rodtang, before the coronavirus pandemic, he had been booked to challenge Ennahachi for the ONE kickboxing flyweight title.
“To make it even better, I want to face whoever wins this fight,” said Rodtang. “I was supposed to face Ilias for the kickboxing title. But then COVID happened so it was cancelled. I tried to explain afterwards that my fight with Ilias had been booked before but instead they gave him two options between me and Superlek.
“Ilias ended up choosing Superlek because he hadn’t fought for over a year. So now it’s Superlek who’s challenging for the title.”
Who wins when Rodtang Jitmuangnon takes on Tagir Khalilov in his kickboxing debut at ONE: Fists Of Fury?