Ev Ting is riding an excellent wave of form and believes he’s within striking distance of a shot at the ONE Championship Lightweight World Title.
The 28-year-old Malaysian is preparing to face Koji “The Commander” Ando at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in Macau on Saturday, 23 June.
“E.T.” believes an impressive display against the Japanese veteran could be the final piece of the jigsaw as he bids to earn a shot at ONE gold.
Speaking about the ONE lightweight class, Ting says: “It is easily the most stacked division.
”Featherweight is also stacked. I probably have the most wins in featherweight and lightweight out of the whole roster.
“But in the lightweight division, there are definitely a few contenders. There is Timofey Nastyukhin, there are a few [other] guys, and obviously, there is a traffic jam with the champion fighting in three different divisions.
“Lightweight is definitely a division to watch, and it is creating a lot of attention, that is for sure.”
The weight class is currently ruled by two-division World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen. He also possesses the featherweight strap and has competed at bantamweight this year.
Despite the fact his division’s leader is splitting his time between so many challenges, Ting admits he’s an admirer of how the Australian-Vietnamese martial artist has handled his position so far.
“I talked to Martin, and if I was him, I would be doing exactly the same thing,” he says.
“He is only doing what is smart for him.
“Nothing against Martin. He is doing everything right, but he has to either defend or vacate [the lightweight belt] eventually.
“I will get my shot regardless. I will knock [the other contenders] down one by one until I get it. It is just a matter of time.”
The potential match-up between Ting and Nguyen is one that “E.T.” admits he’s often been asked about, and he believes it would be an exciting, must-see attraction.
“That fight could sell out anywhere,” he says.
“It could sell out in Kuala Lumpur, it could sell out in Vietnam, and it could even sell out in Australia.
“I feel like it is a recipe for fireworks, that is for sure.
“We are definitely not going to be dancing around each other, and we are not going to hug each other to death or anything. We are definitely going to try to put on a show for everybody.
“If ONE wants an exciting match-up, this is the one to make, but obviously, there are different interests in play. We just have to wait, at the moment.”
But before any thoughts turn to a bout with Nguyen, Ting knows he has to take care of the challenge of Ando in Macau.
It is a challenge he is clearly relishing, as he lines up against a seasoned veteran of the sport, in a familiar location, with a title shot almost within reach.
“Macau is good,” he says.
“The first time I ever fought overseas was in Macau, so I have some history in Macau. It was also in a ring that time. It is going back in time, in a way. I am excited.
“When they offered me Koji, I was not going to turn that down. Koji is no joke either. 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.
“If I can get a solid finish, I would feel that I am right there for the title shot. I am not the matchmaker, but a lot of people would vouch that I am deserving of a title shot.”
That title shot, if it comes, will be the second of Ting’s mixed martial arts career. His prior tilt at ONE gold came against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang a year ago, in a bout he lost via unanimous decision.
Since then, Ting says he’s learned to tailor his training to suit his opponent, rather than simply improve in all areas. He believes that should help him make his next attempt to become World Champion a successful one.
“With that training camp, I was trying to improve everywhere. During that fight, I was trying to beat [Eduard Folayang] everywhere,” he says.
“I was trying to improve every aspect of my game, which is the right mindset, but at the end of the day, it is always better to tailor your game plan towards your opponent and have a set sequence to master, rather than trying to be good everywhere. [To be] more specific in a way – more focused.
“A good example would be Ben Askren or Shinya Aoki. You could say they are one-dimensional, but they execute their sequences so well that, time and time again, they are getting their wins.
“Ben Askren is the man. He deserves to fight the best, and he is the best. He has proven what is the most efficient way to fight – to finish the fight without getting hurt. That is what martial arts is all about – protecting yourself and not getting hurt.”
Inspired by the likes of Askren and Aoki, Ting is looking to elevate himself to new heights as he seeks the ONE Lightweight World Title.
And he says he shares Askren’s single-minded drive and determination, and that while he may not necessarily have one outstanding weapon or a chiselled physique, he has the strength of mind, and all-round skillset, to take himself all the way to the top of the sport.
“That is the greatest strength about me,” he explains.
“People will say I am pretty average everywhere, and I do not even have [six-pack] abs. But once they get that mindset, they get beaten.
“Maybe that is my strength, in a way – I give people false hope, and that is when I capitalise.”