China’s Han Zi Hao has come a long way since his days scouring the streets of Bangkok for loose coins to buy extra food to keep his hunger pangs at bay.
The sacrifices Han made in his youth and the struggles he overcame have helped mold the man and the athlete he is now.
The 23-year-old may be one of the youngest athletes on the ONE Super Series roster, but his natural talent and relentless drive to win have skyrocketed him onto the world stage and into a world title shot.
The bout will take place in Bangkok, Han’s second home since he arrived in Thailand, aged 14 almost a decade ago.
Han has lived in the country long enough to have heard stories about the legend that is Nong-O Gaiyanghadao. The 32-year old Thai has won almost everything that is worth winning in Muay Thai, often on multiple occasions.
The four-time Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai World Champion will enter the bout against Han as the odds on favorite.
However, beating the odds is something Han has become accustomed to ever since he left China to pursue his dream of becoming a professional Muay Thai athlete.
“After the first week or so in Thailand, I began to miss home. I felt so far away from home in this new country,” he said in an interview with ONEFC.com.
“Sometimes, I cried hiding under the blanket. [When I called home] I told my parents that I was doing fine in Thailand and they shouldn’t worry. However, right after hanging up the phone, I felt so sad and couldn’t help crying.
“I had a determination that I would not go home no matter how hard it was, and I would hide the thought of going home even if I wanted to.”
Han persevered in the face of adversity. He focused his energy into improving himself as a martial artist and was soon racking up wins and capturing regional titles.
The Chinese athlete’s success inside the ring helped make the transition to living in Thailand easier.
His thoughts soon become less about how much he missed home, and more about what he could to do to make those back home proud of his accomplishments.
“My first coach used to tell me, ‘Young children rely on their parents to gain respect. Once grown up, they should honor their parents.
“This is the reason that keeps me going all these years. I want to honor my hometown and my country with this profession, and I want to grow stronger so that I can provide a better life for my family.”
A product of Mad Muay Thai Gym, Han has been unstoppable since arriving in the ONE Super Series. In November, he became the first ONE Super Series athlete to achieve three victories in the Super Series after a first-round stoppage of Malaysia’s Azwan Che Wil at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS.
On 16 February, he will get another chance to engrave his name into the history books by becoming the inaugural ONE Super Series Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion.