Kamal Shalorus has been biding his time since last year's UFC release and after turning down offers from several promotions, he finally put pen to paper on a ONE FC contract earlier this year. The Iranian has been handed a baptism of fire when he takes on Filipino Eduard Folayang in Manila on May 31st, but says he is hoping to put in a performance which will win over the fans.
"I love Filipino fans and I would like to express my respect to them and hope that Eduard Folayang and I will put a great show for them, but I know when they lock the door of the cage It will be me and my opponent alone. I had some offers from other organizations in the USA as well as Europe, but ONE FC is a great show and my manager advised me to go with them."
Shalorus (7-3) was a contender for the lightweight title during his WEC days, an organization with which he never lost a fight. He had hoped to continue this winning run under the UFC banner but it was not to be and his ambitions are now focused on winning a belt with ONE FC to go with the two he has already claimed with King of Kombat and Supreme Warrior Challenge.
"When I was in WEC, I ran through several top contenders and former titleholders and made it to the top and I was very close to the belt in WEC when the organization merged with UFC and then I knew that I needed about two fights to earn the title shot but it didn't happen. Now that I have such a great opportunity, I am very determined to win ONE FC belt."
That title is currently held by Shinya Aoki and Shalorus is hoping to work his way into contention for a shot at the champion.
"Aoki is one of the MMA veterans, he has been around for long time. It will be a great opportunity for me to fight him and beat a veteran and win a belt."
Shalorus was born in Iran but has been based in the U.S. since 2006. He currently fights out of Kaizen MMA, a camp which is based in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., and says that, even though he has not fought for a year he has been training nonstop.
"I have been training without distractions at Kaizen MMA Team. My head coach, Nima Mazhari, is from my home town and I feel at home there. They have helped me so much to stay on my feet, work on my weaknesses and look for a better future in this sport."
Iran has always been a global powerhouse in terms of producing wrestlers and after excelling in the sport as a child, Shalorus decided to leave his homeland in order to try to chase his dreams of becoming a successful professional athlete.
That journey saw him come close to representing Great Britain at the Olympics before moving to Texas where he made his professional MMA debut in 2008.
"I left Iran to pursue my destiny and find my missing star in the sky which was my young childhood dream. I traveled from country to country when I was very young until I settled in U.K. where I represented British wrestling team and eventually to USA where MMA is very popular and now it is my permanent home."
The relationship between the country where Shalorus was born and raised and his adopted home has not always been cordial, but he says this does not stop him returning regularly to Iran.
"I love Iran. It is where I am born and I visit my family frequently, especially my mother. It is amazing how nicely Iranian people treat me, from the airport all the way to my home town Khalkhal where young kids wait in front of my door every morning to see me and follow me when I am jogging and people give me water and food."
By signing with Asia's biggest MMA organization, Shalorus has returned to his roots and the fight with Folayang at ONE FC: "Rise to Power" will be his first in Asia. Up until this point, the "Prince of Persia" has spent his entire career competing in the U.S. but is excited to be expanding his horizons.
"I think all fighters like to accomplish things in bigger organizations and big organizations are always looking for more accomplished fighters. ONE FC is one the most successful and powerful MMA events in the world and it is an honor that they have selected me and are giving me the opportunity to fight for them."
First up for Shalorus is a fight with ONE FC's Filipino poster boy. Folayang is the most popular fighter the country has ever produced and will inevitably enjoy some vocal support from the 20,000 or so fans expected to be in attendance at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on May 31.
Shalorus has plenty of respect for his opponent but believes that a win over Folyang would provide the perfect introduction to Asian MMA.
"He is a great fighter and I know that he is a national hero in Philippines, so fighting Folayang will be great start for my career in Asia. I look forward to fighting here, building a bond relationship with the wonderful crowd and my ambition is to be the ONE FC 155 pound champion."