Rob Lisita had a ONE FC title shot within his grasp, as he appeared to be getting the better of Eric Kelly in their featherweight eliminator last July until the Filipino pulled a rear-naked choke out of nowhere to win by second round submission and leapfrog Lisita in the queue of 145-pound contenders.
It was a devastating setback for the Australian, but he has a chance to redeem himself next month when he faces undefeated M-1 featherweight champion Marat Gafurov in the main event of ONE FC: "Roar of Tigers" and Lisita sees this as the perfect opportunity to get right back in the title picture.
"I'm gonna be better than Gafurov in every aspect, he will lose and I will win and it's going to get me back in the title picture. I'm already at the top of the division and I don't see my last opponent fighting for a while so I will be next."
Kelly suffered a fractured nose during his win over Lisita which ruled the Filipino out of an immediate title shot, with the fight instead going to Jadamba Naranungulag, who scored a unanimous decision win over former champion Koji Oishi at ONE FC: "Reign of Champions" in Dubai.
Lisita was watching that five-round fight and says he feels that neither the former champion nor the new one has what it takes to remain at the top of the division for too much longer.
"It was a great fight between two good athletes, but they're old, it's time they step aside for the next generation."
Lisita might not have won the fight with Kelly but it helped cement his status as a ONE FC headliner and his featherweight bout with Gafurov will be the main event of the promotion's Oct. 17 card which is set for Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur.
His name is exactly where he wants it to be, at the top of the card and Lisita says he has every intention of staying there for future fights.
"I'm happy and I believe all my fights will be main event as they should be. There's no fighter in Asia that brings out more emotion in people when they fight than me."
Lisita's two ONE FC bouts to date have both been memorable as he knocked out former Legend FC champion Yusuke Kawanago in under 30 seconds in his promotional debut and then played a part in the "Fight of the Year" candidate against former URCC champion Kelly.
Next up for the Australian is the opportunity to challenge the incumbent M-1 145-pound titleholder and Lisita is relishing the opportunities which have arrived since he signed with Asia's biggest MMA promotion.
"I love fighting for ONE FC. They are a part of my family now and together we are gonna make the whole world excited to see every ONE FC, especially the ones that I'm headlining!"
Fans in Asia can catch ONE FC: "Roar of Tigers" live on FOX Sports 3. Fans from around the world can witness the action online via live streaming at www.onefc.livesport.tv. The event will be available for purchase at just $9.99.