Ev Ting is eyeing a second shot at the ONE Lightweight World Title, but in order to get it, he knows he has to get past a man he admires.
Malaysian-Kiwi Ting faces off against former World Title challenger Koji “The Commander” Ando at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in Macau, and many believe a victory for “E.T.” will put him in pole position for a shot at the title currently held by Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
But despite his apparent proximity to a title shot, Ting is refusing to allow himself to be distracted as he prepares to face Ando on Saturday, 23 June.
“I am absolutely not looking past him,” says the 28-year-old.
“He is somebody I have looked up to for a while. I just feel I am that much more evolved, and I am that much more prepared and relevant in the division. I just have to prove it to everybody.”
Ting’s first crack at ONE Championship gold came back in April 2017 when he lost out to Eduard “Landslide” Folayang via unanimous decision, but since that setback, he’s been in superb form.
He returned with a first-round TKO finish of former ONE Welterweight World Champion Nobutatsu Suzuki last August, then followed up that victory with a back-and-forth battle with fellow lightweight contender Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton.
Ting earned the victory via split decision after a hugely entertaining affair as he advanced one step closer to a second title shot.
“For Suzuki, I worked a lot on my point sparring and taekwondo, and it kind of showed with my distance, so I was glad to get the first-round finish,” says Ting.
“Ariel is a different type of animal. I was so confident I was going to knock him out, and that second round is when he ended up giving me the most trouble.
“That was an exciting fight. It pretty much came down to that third round, who was hungrier, and who wanted it more. I was glad I edged it out.
“Both Suzuki and Sexton are legends, and they would give anyone trouble in ONE Championship. I got two wins fighting the top guys, and I am working my way back up.”
That journey back to the top now goes through Ando, a third-degree judo black belt with solid striking and jiu-jitsu skills.
“Koji is no joke,” Ting says. “He is a [Legend FC Lightweight] champion, he has never been finished, and his stand-up and judo are on point.
“People are going to see him as somebody who just came off a loss, but he is definitely no chump. He is definitely very dangerous.”
Ting’s preparations for the bout have mainly taken place at his new base at Bali MMA. Previously he’d spent most of his career training out of Auckland MMA in New Zealand, but more recently he’s become increasingly attached to the Indonesian gym.
“This is my fifth camp out here in Bali, so the results speak for themselves,” he says.
“We win a lot of fights. We are a full-time, professional team that just embraces the grind.
“Obviously, the main reason [I come here] is the training camp, and the balance between all the different types of training – from nutrition, to conditioning, to wrestling and striking.
“It is a great balance with recovery as well. It seems to be working well. If it is not broken, don’t change it, right?”
With a two-bout win streak under his belt and the knowledge that he’s in the right place to develop his ever-improving arsenal, Ting believes he can produce the sort of performance to dispatch Ando. That would, he believes, give him the platform to call for a second shot at the ONE Lightweight Title.
“If I could get a significant and solid finish, I would feel that I am right there for the title shot,” he says.
“That is definitely the goal – to finish him, and then call out the World Champion for my title shot. That is the plan.”