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Ev Ting grateful for his life in martial arts as he plots lightweight title shot

Malaysian-born Kiwi opens up on how martial arts changed his life

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Ev Ting feels as if he’s within touching distance of the ONE Lightweight Title.

The Malaysia-born Kiwi unsuccessfully challenged for the belt 10 months ago, but is now building momentum ahead of a second run at the gold.

His latest test comes on 23 February in Yangon, Myanmar, when he faces fellow lightweight contender Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD. It’s a battle that could propel the winner into a title bout later in the year.

“He is a game black belt, and he has faced pretty much the other half of the division that I have not faced yet,” Ting told ONE Championship ahead of the contest.

“So competing against him would be a great unification in a way, to show that we are true contenders of the division, and we should be right up there in contention for a world title shot.”

Ting was born in Malaysia, but moved to New Zealand with his family when he was seven. He took up rugby and football, but his involvement in team sports fell away when he left school after his graduation in 2007.

Looking for a new athletic direction, Ting discovered a new gym that opened nearby that sparked his interest in martial arts. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I was in a brand new suburb with no friends, so I went to look for an individual sport,” he recalled.

“Luckily, there was a martial arts gym that opened up very close by, which is Auckland MMA.”

Ting, who was already a big martial arts fan, immersed himself in his training and soon tried his hand in amateur competitions, achieving enough success to convince him to turn pro.

He made his professional debut in 2011, winning his first three bouts before taking a short-notice contest against rising star Mark Striegl in Hong Kong.

The lack of preparation time told, as he was submitted inside the opening round, but it proved a turning point for Ting’s martial arts career.

“It was actually from that match where I met not only the right people, but the people that made everything happen,” he explained.

“From that loss, I got contracts from gym owners in Malaysia, and I would say that was the start of me making my name in Asia.”

By 2014, he’d signed for ONE Championship and picked up a host of big-name wins, including victories over former ONE Featherweight Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario, Kamal Shalorus and Filipino brothers Edward and Eric Kelly.

His form propelled him into a title bout against then-ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang. But despite delivering a strong performance, he found himself on the wrong end of a unanimous decision after five exciting rounds.

Just as his previous big-name defeat helped him, Ting used his loss as a positive once again.

“I made some mistakes, and I should have stuck to a basic sequence and focused on that,” he said.

“But it is all part of the journey, and it has made me a better character since then.

“In some ways, it is a blessing in disguise. It just was not my time, and I feel when it is my time, it will be much more rewarding.”

Since that defeat, Ting returned to his training, filling the gaps in his skillset and sharpening his skills in order to ensure that when he earns a second shot at the belt, he’s fully prepared to take full advantage.

In his last bout, Ting defeated former ONE Welterweight Champion Nobutatsu Suzuku by TKO to set up the clash with Sexton, as ONE looks to position the lightweight division’s best ahead of a title tilt later in the year.

Life could have been markedly different for Ting had he not discovered martial arts, and it’s that realisation that helps keep his motivation high as he prepares for one of the most important bouts of his career to date.

“The whole martial arts lifestyle is what I breathe and preach,” he said.

“It has changed my life where I am not ripping my hands under cars at seven in the morning anymore and I am getting paid for a 15-minute bout. I used to do that for free, so it has changed my life in a lot of positive ways.

“As a person and my well-being in general, I would say it has allowed me the ability to find ways to balance it all, and find ways to keep out negative things and ideally attract positive situations. It has allowed me to be more in control of my full self.”

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK national media. News Editor: ONE Championship. UFC/MMA Reporter: BBC Three. MMA/EPL Writer: The Action Network. Contrib: MMAjunkie.

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