Nothing to be shy about: MMA fighter Agilan Thani talks of depression, overcoming the odds

Agilan ‘Alligator’ Thani, 23, is looking to bounce back from his depression after a lacklustre 2018 with a new approach and a stronger mind. — Pix by Mukhriz Hazim
Agilan ‘Alligator’ Thani, 23, is looking to bounce back from his depression after a lacklustre 2018 with a new approach and a stronger mind. — Pix by Mukhriz Hazim

PETALING JAYA, May 31 — It’s tough to bounce back from defeats.

Add depression into the mix and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Agilan “Alligator” Thani was ready to give up six months ago.

But he didn’t and is now looking to make up for a disappointing 2018.

Despite falling into depression, the 23-year-old has been open about his experiences during those tough moments in his life, as he felt that there was no point to keep it bottled up inside.

“I believe if you don’t express yourself and shy away, then you are not being true to yourself,” added Agilan.

The “Alligator” ended 2018 with a 1-2 record, after suffering back-to-back defeats to Zebaztian Kadestam and Kiamrian Abbasov.

He was left devastated by the defeats to his Swedish and Kyrgyz opponents, in which he looked a shade of his former self, making him feel like a failure.

Just three weeks after his loss to Abbasov, Agilan underwent an operation to fix a long-term lower back injury, breaking his spirit and leading him to think that his career was taking a turn for the worse.

On his road to recovery, the Kuala Lumpur-based fighter took those losses and injury badly, making him feel like quitting the sport altogether.

“Many times I felt like I want to quit, but that is part of the sport, if you don’t make it to the top, you feel like quitting,” he said in an interview with Malay Mail yesterday at Monarchy MMA Gym.

Agilan revealed that injuries and bad losses made him feel like quitting the sport entirely.
Agilan revealed that injuries and bad losses made him feel like quitting the sport entirely.

He added that his mind played a crucial role in picking himself up and that he needed time to reflect on everything that has happened.

“I just needed to figure things out in my head, and after some time I decided that this (MMA) is what I’m going to do, even if I fail again, I’m going to keep doing it.

“I can choose to feel down and sad, or I can pick myself up.”

Agilan confided in his girlfriend, teammates and coaches from Monarchy, as they kept him motivated and focused on his return to the octagon.

After six months out recovering, he is set to face Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama on June 15 at the ONE: Legendary Quest in Shanghai and has been preparing “smartly” for his bout against his Japanese adversary.

“Last time when we trained hard all the time, I had more injuries, more down days, I ruined my body and my mind wasn’t feeling it anymore.”

Agilan practising his kicks during a Media Day with the press at Monarchy MMA Gym Kuala Lumpur.
Agilan practising his kicks during a Media Day with the press at Monarchy MMA Gym Kuala Lumpur.

Agilan and his coaches have made adjustments in his preparations, adding that their new approach includes training with many new routines.

For example, he said that he stretches a lot more before training than he previously did and even does more recovery work now.

Additionally, his coaches, Conrado Roveri and Samir Mrabet, use heart rate monitors now and give Agilan more time to rest and recover now as they pay attention to every little detail in the hopes of creating the ‘best version’ of Agilan Thani ahead of his fight in June.

Agilan rose to fame two years ago when his early life experiences were brought to light after a string of impressive performances in ONE: Championship, winning six bouts in a row.

He was raised by his single father and was constantly bullied by his peers, being called names like “Kung Fu Panda” and “fat boy” when he weighed in at 145 kilogrammes.

However, he now weighs in at 84 kilogrammes and pays great attention to his diet in order to meet the welterweight requirements, but still can’t resist the temptation of good Malaysian food.

“A diet is a diet, but at the same time I want to enjoy my life, eating the food I like,” he added.

Although he does have his cheat days, he still “eats a good amount of everything” as he tries to keep fit and ready for his bout at Legendary Quest.

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