05/03/2024

Reece McLaren. Photo: ONE Championship

Filipino-Australian mixed martial artist Reece ‘Lightning’ McLaren said he’s not looking for redemption, but rather retribution as he prepares to face former flyweight world champion Kairat Akhmetov in a high stakes rematch in ONE Championship’s USA debut in Denver on May 6.

The card is headlined by the trilogy between Demetrious Johnson and Adriano Moraes, the championship fight of McLaren’s division. Which leaves fans questioning if McLaren’s fight is the title eliminator.

“I believe this is the title eliminator fight. If you’re not fighting like the champ, then why are you here,” the Australian said.

McLaren and Akhmetov faced off in 2019 where the Australian lost a unanimous decision. Since then, McLaren has finished four opponents, and believes he can do the same to his old nemesis.

“My goal every time is to keep it out of the judges hands, they will break your heart every single time I definitely see this being a stoppage of some sort where it’s doctors stoppage or corner retirement,” he said.

Despite that, he still acknowledges the danger Akhmetov poses.

“He’s an ex-world champ, he’s ranked number two in the world, he knows how to win…he’s a stud,” McLaren said.

While he is already a BJJ black belt, McLaren appointed a new head coach in John Wayne Parr to take his striking game to the next level.

“[The 2019 fight] wasn’t a good fight camp. I didn’t fight very well, I forgot that this is the people hurting business and Wayne has reminded me of that…so we’re here to hurt,” he said.

ONE Championship has a unique weigh-in system, which differs to UFC or other MMA promotions – they have banned weight cutting.

Before a fight, athletes must ensure they’re properly hydrated and ONE Championship has a test to check if athletes are hydrated enough to safely weigh-in.

Athletes need to provide a urine sample, which is then checked by a doctor and technician to check it shows they’re hydrated. If they pass, they can weigh-in.

With that, McLaren seems sceptical of his opponent and his processes, hinting at some strange procedures.

“One of my concerns when I did get the match-up with Kairat is I know he comes in [to the Octagon] heavy. I don’t know how he does it, I don’t think ONE knows how he does it…so I don’t think he’ll be down this weight class much longer,” he said.

McLaren said the chance to fight in capital of the fight game in the USA on a Demetrious Johnson main card is a ‘dream come true’, a dream which started back a young age in Toowoomba, Australia.

“It’s a dream come true fighting in the USA, I’m pinching myself…but I’m in a position where I can’t [smell the roses], I’ve gotta get in the trenches and keep digging,” McLaren said.

There has been speculation MMA legend Johnson might hang up the gloves after his title bout, and McLaren said it’d be a missed opportunity for himself if he does.

“If he decides to call it quits then damn, I missed out on touching the goat,” he said.

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