KUALA LUMPUR: Agilan Thani may have lost his recent ONE Championship welterweight title fight against Ben Askren, but he's far from defeated.
Instead, he believes that the experience will only make him stronger, and sees is as a stepping stone to greater things in the tough world of mixed martial arts.
Agilan, known as 'The Alligator', was on an undefeated streak when he took on reigning ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren at 'ONE Championship: Dynasty of Heroes' in Singapore last weekend.
The 21-year-old's meteoric rise was halted by Askren, a vastly experienced fighter and former Olympian, who caught Agilan in an arm triangle choke to force a submission.
Speaking to the New Straits Times, Agilan, who hails from Sentul, said his defeat was no one's fault but his own as he was dealing with a lot of pressure.
"It's still a long way before I become a world champion, I know that. But maybe this is where I start. I've taken the defeat in a good spirit.
"I don't have any regrets and I don't blame anyone; it's my fault," he said, adding that perhaps he wasn't mentally or physically prepared enough.
"But although I didnt win, I'm still proud at being able to put Malaysia on the map," he said, vowing to train even harder from now on.
"Having had the experience of facing a world champion, I can now better prepare myself mentally and physically for future matches and tournaments.
"I'm sorry I didnt win but one day, I hope to fight him again in future tournaments, if there's an opportunity," he said.
Agilan said he hoped that the exposure would bring him sponsorship to cover the costs of training and overseas competitions. He said he had been using his own funds all this while for his training abroad.
"I also want to thank all Malaysians who had supported me throughout this journey," he said.
Agilan expressed hope that his recent match would not be turned into a racial issue.
"There were some unflattering and inflammatory comments on social media. Honestly, there's no need to play the race card or even point fingers at anyone.
"All I'm interested in now is looking forward and scaling greater heights in this path I've chosen," he said.
Agilan was speaking to reporters at the MIC headquarters in KL. Earlier, MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam had presented him with gold pendants and RM10,000 as a token of recognition for his heroic efforts.