Wee's debut has given him a leg up for 2nd bout

SITTING hardly still on an exercise ball, Royston Wee could be perceived as feeling the jitters ahead of his second bantamweight fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) next month.

Singapore's first fighter in the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion will be facing a reportedly bigger-sized opponent - Chinese fighter Yao Zhikui - on Aug 23 in UFC Fight Night Macau.

Yao, 23, had previously competed in the heavier featherweight category in the reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter: China.

The event's main card will see Briton Michael Bisping take on American-Vietnamese Cung Le.

"Actually, I'm feeling pretty confident about the upcoming fight - 200 per cent confident to be exact," Wee, who turns 28 in November, said.

He is not fazed because he feels he has already made it through the most nerve-racking fight he thinks he will ever face - his UFC debut against Filipino Dave Galera at Marina Bay Sands in January.

Then, self-doubt, fuelled by poor performances in training and questions over his inclusion in the UFC roster, nearly crippled Wee ahead of the fight.

"I am a perfectionist by nature so I get worried when I feel that I am not training as well as I can," said Wee, referring to an inability to strike or grapple well then.

"The amount of scrutiny going into my first UFC fight was overwhelming," added the full-time fighter who was also dogged by talk that he had not fought for two years prior to the match against Galera.

"People formed a perception of me based on my fight record but they have to understand that fight records on paper are different from real-life performances."

He turned to local sports psychologist Edgar Tham for help.

Said the latter: "When we try to read people's minds, it stresses us out and that's what happened with Royston.

"It was his first fight and people were going to talk regardless, so I told him to focus on what he can control, which is his training, and forget about the criticism because they will never understand what he's going through.

"He was already doing everything right in terms of preparation, so all I had to do was help him regain his self-belief by reassuring him that he was more than ready for the fight."

Wee, who went on to beat Galera via a unanimous decision, is confident he can defeat Yao, who shares similar skills in wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

"He has good endurance but in terms of fighting proficiency, I feel I'm better than him but I've tweaked my training routine still to deal with his fighting style," said Wee.

"Even after my win, there are still doubters out there and I can't control what they say so I'm going to focus on what I can do, which is fight hard and win for my career." terong@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on July 28, 2014.
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