Former ONE featherweight MMA world champion Thanh Le expected a rematch against Tang Kai in his return to ONE Championship action. However, due to injuries, the Chinese star hasn’t been able to defend the World Title.
But the division moves forward regardless this weekend, with a ONE interim featherweight MMA world title fight on Friday, Oct. 6, at ONE Fight Night 15 on Prime Video, and Le will be one half of it.
Standing across the ring from him will be Ilya Freymanov, who has blitzed his way into contention since arriving in the promotion in Oct. 2022.
Ahead of the fiery bout, the Vietnamese-American star has been discussing why he thinks an interim strap was necessary for the stacked featherweight MMA division.
“You’ve got to keep the division going. You’ve got to keep the title fights going to keep everything moving. Because having it stale for a year plus is an issue for the company and for us [contenders] lingering at the top,” Le told ONE Championship.
“Ilya’s name came up, and I knew that fight was eventually going to happen no matter what. Whether I beat Tang Kai and was champion, or maybe I had to work my way back, I knew it was going to happen.”
Freymanov has made it clear that his eyes are on the world title, and he has named Le as an opponent he wants to take on.
Although Tang holds the crown, the Russian star called out the former king after his latest victory at ONE Fight Night 11. And Le was just as excited to get the call for his upcoming match as he saw a meeting with the Kuznya Fight Club standout as inevitable.
“Now, since it’s a title fight, Freymanov sees me as a way to get to the title, but even before that, he saw it as, ‘Hey, this dude was champion. I’ve gotta beat him, and he’s going to get me to my dreams,’” He stated.
“But this is everything I’ve worked for, and it’s obviously the most important thing to him too. So he’s going to get the best Thanh Le, I am guaranteed to get the best Ilya, and it’s going to make for fireworks.”
The New Orleans resident has never shied away from competition. In fact, he has sought it out every step of the way, because he wants to face the toughest to leave no doubt who the very best in the world is.
Freymanov’s two first-round finishes only got him more hyped for a clash, and he’s ready tp put on a show this Friday.
“He’s very good. He’s done some damage in the division, so that’s very appealing to me that he puts a hurting on people. He comes forward. He’s aggressive. He’s very skilled. So it’s really nice to get a name like that,” the 38-year-old said.
“I think it’s going to be a relatively quick and difficult fight. And I like that a lot. That’s what it says on paper, and that’s what my brain tells me, and that’s what I think his brain tells him based on some of the interviews I’ve heard.”
“If he does happen to make a mistake or two and feel some of the power that I present, I don’t know that he’ll be as aggressive as normal, but I’m very excited to see how that reaction and his pivots and adjustments come into play.”
Le has been a destructive force in ONE, and his five highlight-reel knockouts in a row lit up the promotion’s stage.
Adding another one to his already impressive list is part of his plan at ONE Fight Night 15, and no one is going to stop him.
“I’ll give you a two-part prediction. I think if he comes out, feels a little bit of movement and power and doesn’t change his game plan, then it’ll be a first-rounder,” Le said.
“If he is a smart fighter, if he makes his adjustments and doesn’t get put out early, I think it’s maybe a late third-round finish. But it’s going to be a finish.”
“I say this every fight. And I was right, except for the last fight. That’s the first time I’ve ever gone to a decision. It was nasty. I didn’t like it. We are not going to a decision. I promise you this.”
ONE Fight Night 15: Le vs. Freymanov airs live on Prime Video on Friday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. The event is free for all Amazon Prime members based in the U.S. and Canada.
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