Malykhin Eyes History-Making Triple Belt

January 12, 2024
2 months

Champions etch their name into history when they win a title. They will be forever on the record as a winner. Yet, that’s not enough for some. Sometimes a participant changes their weight division to conquer another challenge. Still…that doesn’t appease Anatoly Malykhin. He wants a third divisional championship.

Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight; Watch Out!

Anatoly Malykhin has already made MMA breaking news in his MMA career, having won the heavyweight and light heavyweight championships in ONE Championship. The 36-year-old Russian fighter is 13-0 during his career, having dominated the ONE promotion since joining in 2021.

He first won the interim heavyweight title by defeating the gigantic Belarusian fighter, Kirill Grishenko. Sixteen months on, he went on to unify the championship by delivering a fierce ground-and-pound attack that ended the fight with the former UFC fighter, Arjan Bhullar. Yet, Malykhin didn’t want to sit and wait for that fight. In the time between those fights, he challenged Reinier de Ridder for the lightweight strap…winning it!

With a decent ability to change weight and be on a hot, unbeaten streak, Malykhin wants to make history. ONE Championship has allowed him to fight at middleweight to try to become the first-ever major triple-division champion. Some would say this is crazy, but there’s history on the Russian’s side. The presiding middleweight champion is Reiner de Ridder, the man he previously beat for the lightweight title.

He’s Already Beaten de Ridder

Reiner de Ridder lost his lightweight title the last time he faced off against Anatoly Malykhin. It’s not exactly the kind of memory you want in the back of your head before you fight the same man with your other championship belt hanging in the balance.

Before the first meeting, de Ridder had also been unbeaten in his MMA career. There are many parallels between the two fighters. Both are comfortable in changing weight classes, with both seeming to prefer the heavier divisions but still collecting many belts between them.

Malykhin made short work of de Ridder in the first meeting, as the fight didn’t get past the first round before a series of punches knocked out the Dutch combatant. Could it be another first-round finish in the second meeting?

What Would Winning the Third Belt Mean?

Well, it’s unprecedented waters, so it’s always good to be a history-maker. Malykhin would emulate and better the accomplishments of double champions like Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, and Daniel Cormier by winning a third belt.

There might not be a better time to do it either. This fight is already locked in for ONE 166 in Lusail, Qatar. ONE Championship is currently on the crest of a wave, with its media exposure growing in size due to the new broadcasting deals with Amazon Prime and Sky Sports. A history-making triple champion sells tickets and PPVs, that’s for sure.

While ONE Championship will have to be impartial in its promotional work, the management will secretly be rooting for Malykhin. As stated, he will enter a very rare airspace if he wins. Should he not win the match and championship, it’s just another result for the promotion, but with the loss of a distinct USP.

Does he have anything left to prove in ONE?

So, there is a question that some MMA news sites will speculate in the wake of this news. Does Malykhin really have to keep fighting in ONE Championship? He’s already a two-division champion. While a third belt makes him a very rare statistical champion, it’s in ONE. Simply put, there are better MMA promotions out there which are more highly regarded. In the future, this might change, but for now, Malykhin should seriously consider fighting elsewhere. PFL and UFC would be foolish not to at least consider his services. He’s already shown the capacity to fight in any of three weight divisions, so finding him a fight shouldn’t be too difficult.

At present, the heavyweight division in the UFC stinks, riddled with politics and interim monikers. Therefore, there’s even more reason for Malykhin to go in and legitimize the division.

If he does win the fabled third belt, he could use that as leverage in contract negotiations with another company or to stay with ONE Championship. After all, they wouldn’t want the man with three title belts to walk out of the company and leave the promotion with vacant championships.

Does a Triple Champion Signify a Lack of Roster Quality?

It is a fantastic achievement on paper that a single fighter could win three different weight division championships. It’s unheard of, and if it happens, it’s unmatched. Is it really a good look for ONE Championship? Cynical MMA fans could easily point out that the roster depth is simply non-existent in the promotion as they don’t have enough championship-caliber fighters.

In addition, if Malykhin does win this fight, he’s going to cause a logistical nightmare for the divisional rankings. With three championships, he’s going to be a hard man to pin down for a title fight. In theory, there could be three credible challengers waiting for a fight for one of his belts – but he can only fight one at a time. How long will it take him to recover between these bouts? Interim belts could come into play. Either way, this isn’t an attractive concept for fighters entering the promotion.

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