Alain Ngalani finding new motivation in special rules bout with Vitor Belfort

Alain Ngalani, Vitor Belfort
Alain Ngalani, Vitor Belfort's first ONE Championship opponent

Alain Ngalani has been given the momentous task of welcoming former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort to ONE Championship, and he relishes that challenge. In fact, it’s providing him with new motivation after a prolonged period of listlessness.

Ngalani, who hails from Cameroon and now lives in Hong Kong, says the bout will most likely occur in the ONE light heavyweight division under a modified rule set—though the pertinent details are still being hashed out. The date of this showdown is also a moving target amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Whatever the case, Ngalani is fired up for the opportunity to step onto the canvas with a legend like Belfort. He views this fight as the perfect opportunity to get back on track after a tough loss to former Cage Warriors champ Mauro Cerilli and a stretch of diminishing motivation.

“Vitor Belfort is a legend, there’s no denying that,” Ngalani said of his adversary. “To me it’s a privilege to meet him in ONE Championship. I’m looking to redeem myself and this fight is bringing me a lot of excitement. It brings the motivation and lights a new fire in me.

“We as fighters go through a lot. We go through injuries, we go through ups and downs, and sometimes we lose ourselves. You lose yourself, and you’re there but you’re not there. You’re lacking that fire, you’re lacking that thing you need to identify and find yourself again. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity because it’s bringing joy to my training, it’s bringing excitement, it’s bringing the fire, and that’s what I needed. I needed something to wake me up.”

While Ngalani is thrilled about the opportunity at hand, the task of beating Belfort will not be an easy one. That being said, the kickboxing specialist likes his chances — particularly under a special rule set that will most likely emphasize the striking side of the mixed martial arts arsenal.

“The rules will be altered,” he said. “If we base it on striking, I’m pretty happy with that.”

Ngalani also believes his size and physicality could be a big factor in this matchup. He naturally floats around ONE’s light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, whereas Belfort will likely have to hit the weight room to bulk up for this matchup.

“I can see his training [on social media],” Ngalani said. “I can see he’s training with some big, tough guys, and that’s good for him.

“My size hasn’t changed,” he added. “I’m naturally this size. I’m very comfortable walking around at this weight, and I think that’s an advantage for me. I’m not forcing it.”

Despite his confidence, Ngalani recognizes he’ll be an underdog in this matchup. He’s 44 years old, and 4-5 in MMA, so his doubters will have plenty of ammunition.

Vitor Belfort

“They can only motivate me,” Ngalani said when asked about the people counting him out in this fight. “I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard a lot of negative comments, and so on, and fair enough. You know, I went into MMA just to have fun and compete and challenge myself, and sometimes I felt, in my last few fights, that I wasn’t there. There were also injuries that I was dealing with. [All of that] brought my record to what it is, and it’s not in my favor, and it doesn’t reflect greatly on me.

“I can understand people saying negative things about me, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I remain who I am. I remain dangerous, I remain athletic. I remain a very capable knockout artist.”

Alain Ngalani considers this Vitor Belfort matchup the biggest fight of his combat sports career — in MMA, kickboxing or Muay Thai. Needless to say, he’s going to be overjoyed if he can prove his doubters wrong and win it.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said, envisioning the win. “It’s one of those rare moments where you have an opportunity, and you go out there and you do what you do best. This is what I do best. I love this sport, and a moment like that [beating Belfort], I can’t imagine. I’m so excited that words can’t describe it.”

“I respect Vitor. He’s a great athlete. But at the end of the day, we’re going to go out there and draw swords. After that, I’ll still have 100 percent respect for him, no matter the outcome of the fight, but I’m going there to take that [win].”

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/30/2020.