M-1 Global Featherweight Champion and top Russian prospect Marat Gafurov is among six fighters that have agreed to join ONE FC, Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion.
Australians Martin Nguyen and Rob Lisita, American Kelvin Fitial, Japanese fighter Kentaro Watanabe, and Canadian Kultar Gill complement a roster vacant of title holders in the heavyweight, middleweight and flyweight divisions. The announcement comes one month after highly-coveted Bellator welterweight Ben Askren signed with the Singapore-based organization.
Gafurov is undefeated in eight professional MMA fights with six victories coming by stoppage. Known as a submission specialist, Gafurov notched his first TKO last summer at M-1 Challenge 41; a victory over Yuri Ivlev. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt will undoubtedly face current featherweight champion Koji Oishi in the near future.
Nguyen didn’t sign with ONE FC as much as he earned a contract. With the BRACE Featherweight Championship and a six-fight contract on the line, he defeated Luke Standing by TKO in the first round of their BRACE 24 main event. With three professional fights under his belt, Nguyen will need a fight or two before getting a title shot.
Lisita brings a 13-5 MMA record with all but three fights occurring on Australian soil. Ahead of his Australian Fighting Championship 6 match last summer, Lisita released a short documentary as a way of reaching out to fans. With his history and a reputation as one of Australia’s top featherweights, “Ruthless” looks to be an immediate contender.
Fitial hasn’t fought since 2011, but that won’t stop him from making an impact in ONE FC’s thin heavyweight division. Around the time his hiatus began, Fitial was convicted of assaulting a businessman in Garapan, a village on the island of Saipan. He served a seven-day prison term and was placed on one year supervised probation. Fitial is 12-7 with two draws and one no contest.
Nicknamed “Black Mamba,” Gill is a Canadian-Indian welterweight who began his career in 2001. After retiring in 2008, he returned to MMA and won consecutive fights in Super Fight League, an Indian-based promotion. Gill will depend on his Muay Thai and kickboxing background to gain ONE FC success.
After five years and 14 MMA fights, Watanabe leaves Shooto, the only MMA organization he has ever known. Having won six of his last seven fights, the 30-year-old is already a top contender for the unclaimed flyweight title.