Malaysian-born Ev Ting is one of the star turns in ONE Championship’s lightweight division.
The 28-year-old contender has battled against a host of top-level opponents, but now he faces one of his most important tests as he gets ready to face Costa Rican submission artist Ariel Sexton at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, 23 February.
The Renzo Gracie black belt will offer a tough test of Ting’s championship credentials, with the winner moving one step closer to a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Title currently held by Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
Chatting during an exclusive interview with ONE Championship, Ting said he’s well aware of the challenges posed by Sexton ahead of their crucial lightweight clash.
”The lightweight division is stacked, and everybody knows that, so there was definitely a few guys I was expecting to be matched up with at some point, and Ariel Sexton was one of them,” he admitted.
“No surprises there. He is a game black belt, and he has faced pretty much the other half of the division that I have not faced yet. 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.”
The bout sees two of the lightweight division’s best go head to head, and Ting firmly believes that a title shot will be up for grabs for the winner.
“I believe so,” he said.
“There are a lot of people lining up, and the champion is challenging for another world title, so there will be some traffic jams in the division. But absolutely, I consider us the top lightweights in the world to be competing for this rank.
“Amir Khan and Timofey Nastyukhin are competing on the event, so those two are the other top contenders of the division. This could even be an eliminator to see who gets the world title shot, but I have my eyes on the gold.
“Shinya Aoki, Eduard Folayang, all these guys are waiting to compete, and that is what it should be — the best competing against the best.”
Ting faced Folayang for the title back in April 2017, losing out by unanimous decision. But the Malaysian-born Kiwi says he’s now over the disappointment of losing out in the biggest bout of his career.
“[I’m] Definitely at peace,” he said.
“Obviously I made some mistakes, and I should have just stuck to a basic sequence and focused on that. But it is all part of the journey, and it has definitely 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.”
The lure of a potential rematch is always a tempting thought, but for Ting, his focus is on the belt, rather than the man who held it when his title challenge fell short.
”It was more the belt, sure,” he said.
“However, I love Manila, and the fans there are always exciting. They were the ones messaging me saying they wanted the rematch.
“But my job, I am contracted to dispose of whoever is on that paper, so I just have to train to peak and beat whoever is in front of me on event night.”
Ting bounced back from his disappointment of losing to Folayang with a first-round TKO stoppage of Nobutatsu Aoki at ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS last August, and he admitted he was happy to get back in the win column in such decisive fashion.
“Well, relief would be the key word,” he smiled.
“I knew I was back at the bottom of the mountain, and it was all about climbing back up to earn my chance again.
“The division is so stacked that everyone is a tough match. They could put on an eight-man tournament, and that would be perfect to unify the division. Chatri Sityodtong [Chairman and CEO of ONE Championship] said he was open to ideas!
“I am really happy to be a part of ONE, and I rate the athletes here against anybody in the world. I am happy to be in this pool of good athletes.”
Now, Ting plans on elevating his stock above his fellow lightweight contenders to earn a shot at the title held by two-weight king Nguyen.
Ting had only good things to say about the Australian world champion, but warned that when he gets his shot at the gold, he’s ready to dominate the champion.
“He did everything right on his end. He came in and executed his game plan, but he definitely has a target on his back,” said Ting.
“He has something that two, or maybe three, divisions are gunning for. He is definitely fortunate to have three world title shots back-to-back. I am happy for him, and I’ve got nothing bad to say about him.
“During the time he was given these opportunities, I was working, coaching all around Asia, donating my win purses to charities and orphanages, and doing things for the sport and communities.
“Had I spent that time on myself, I might have had those kinds of opportunities. But not taking anything away from him, it will be a train wreck if we get matched up this year.”
Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.
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