MANILA, Philippines -- South Africa's Bokang Masunyane believes he has what it takes to become a world champion in the near future -- and Filipino veteran Rene Catalan is just the latest obstacle on his road to the top.
Masunyane, 26, takes on Catalan in a three-round bout at ONE: Big Bang this Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium -- a match that may have a major implication for the strawweight division.
The young fighter known as "Little Giant" is oozing with confidence ahead of the bout, even as he maintains that he has plenty of respect for Catalan.
"I've always said, 'Give me the best and toughest guys,' and Catalan is top three in the division," he said. "He has the experience and he is a veteran. I know that beating him will be a big achievement for me and put me closer to the world title."
"As much as I respect everyone in my division, I think I am the toughest fight for anyone. I showed my will to win in my debut. Whoever fights against me is going to have it tough. Unfortunately for Rene Catalan, he is the guy that is in my path, so I just need to eliminate him to get to the title shot," added Masunyane.
In Catalan, Masunyane takes on an iconic figure in Philippine MMA. The 41-year-old is considered a pioneer in the local MMA scene, having founded the Catalan Fighting Systems where he trains and develops the next wave of Filipino martial arts talents.
He is also a multiple-time Southeast Asian Games medalist in both wushu and sambo.
Masunyane understands that Catalan is a dangerous foe, but he insists that he is not worried.
"Yeah, he has some good skills," Masunyane said of the Filipino veteran.
"But to be honest, I am never worried about any of my opponents. I have watched some of the videos to see what he is good at, but I do not feel threatened by anyone in the division — not just Rene Catalan," he stressed.
He vowed to back up his words with actions come Friday night's event, which is the first of ONE Championship's live event offerings for the month of December.
"I feel like I am something special, and I am going through the whole division to become the world champion," said Masunyane.
"I respect him, but he has never fought somebody like me, and I am going to dominate him from the get-go until the end of the fight," he predicted.
"I'm hoping Catalan brings his A-game because he's got a lot to work on in order to beat me. There's no way I see myself losing this fight," Masunyane added. "I am not going to lose, because I am meant to be a world champion."
Main eventing ONE: Big Bang is a showdown between ONE light heavyweight kickboxing world champion Roman Kryklia of the Ukraine and challenger Murat "The Butcher" Aygun of the Netherlands.