Amir Aliakbari could soon put himself in position to ask for a bigger piece of the pie in the Singapore-based One Championship promotion.
The ambitious 34-year-old Iranian will lock horns with former heavyweight champion Brandon Vera in a featured ONE 164 attraction on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Philippines. Aliakbari has rattled off six wins across his past eight outings. He last competed at ONE on Prime Video 1, where he took care of onetime Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Mauro Cerilli with elbow strikes in the second round of their Aug. 26 encounter.
As Aliakbari moves ever closer to his showdown with Vera, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. Past grievances make him a controversial figure.
Aliakbari was a two-time gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling at the FILA World Wrestling Championships, having won the prestigious competition in 2010 and again in 2013. However, he was stripped of his second medal and received a lifetime ban following a second offense for doping. A previous run-in with governing authorities had cost him an opportunity to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where he likely would have been considered one of the favorites.
2. He was a late arrival.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound heavyweight did not make his professional mixed martial arts debut until the age of 27, as he needed just 17 seconds to put away Hyung Chul-Lee with punches at a Full Metal Dojo event on Oct. 31, 2015 in Bangkok. Aliakbari accepted his second assignment a little more than a month later and picked up a 62-second technical knockout of Radu Spinghel at Real Fight Championship 3.
3. Uphill climbs do not faze him.
Aliakbari entered the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation Openweight Grand Prix with a 2-0 record and proceeded to advance to the tournament final with victories over Joao Isidoro Almeida, Heath Herring and Valentin Moldavsky. His run ended with a knockout loss to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, but he had nevertheless cemented himself as a prospect to watch in the heavyweight division.
4. He chose proven allies.
The Tehran, Iran, native trains out of an American Kickboxing Academy affiliate in Thailand, which opened under Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Mike Swick in 2014. Manel Kape, Anastasia Yankova, Soa Palelei and Vaso Bakocevic are among those who have dropped anchor at the Southeast Asia gym.
5. He tends to minimize his time.
All three of Aliakbari’s losses—Filipovic, Ji Won Kang and Anatoliy Malykhin were the perpetrators—and seven of his 11 victories have occurred inside one round. In addition to his routs of Chul-Lee, Spinghel and Almeida, he has victimized Shelton Graves, Denis Smoldarev, Tyler King and Geronimo dos Santos in short order.Adonis Sevilleno vs Drex Zamboanga
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