This weekend’s ONE atomweight title clash between reigning champion Angela Lee and China’s Xiong Jing Nan is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated bouts of ONE: Century. The pair previously met in March at ONE: A New Era when Lee challenged Xiong for the 31-year-old’s ONE strawweight title.
Xiong stunned the world that night when she defeated Lee via fifth-round TKO in a pulsating bout that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Now, Xiong has been given the opportunity to establish herself as the promotion’s premier female athlete by dropping down a division and challenging Lee in the Singaporean’s preferred weight class.
While Lee has lost her last two bouts, both contests were fought in the strawweight division. The 23-year-old has yet to lose a fight as an atomweight. After their previous encounter, Xiong, who has yet to lose a bout in ONE Championship, has been busy working on the areas of her game that she felt needed improvement.
“Based on our previous fight, I feel that I needed to focus on my grappling and my ground game. Angela was able to control me a lot during our first meeting, and while there wasn’t much danger there, it’s still a position that I would rather not be in,” Xiong said in an interview with LowKick MMA.
“Aside from that, I also sharpened my striking even more because that’s where I feel I have the advantage, and this time around, I don’t plan on making it last until the final round.”
This weekend’s bout will be the first time that Xiong has competed as an atomweight under the ONE banner, but while the weight cut is hard work, it appears she and her team have the situation well under control.
“Everything’s on track as expected, let’s wait for the weigh-in and hydration. Cutting weight is not easy for any athlete. Imagine being on a low-calorie diet and high-intensity training every day, but I do it for months,[its] guaranteed to make you grumpier.
“Strawweight is my original weight class while atomweight is Angela’s, however, everything looks good so far, and I’m ready for the fight!” Xiong said.
Xiong’s ascent from ONE newcomer to main-event star has been a rapid, but not wholly unexpected, rise. She made her promotional debut in December 2017 and immediately grabbed people’s attention by scoring a first-round stoppage win over the Philippine’s April Osenio.
One month later, she finished Singapore’s Tiffany Teo to become the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion. Since then, her career trajectory has been on a vertical incline, and she now finds herself headlining ONE’s United States primetime debut.
“It’s a huge honor for me. A couple of years ago, I was just a prospect coming out of China, and then I became the first MMA world champion from China, now I’m headlining ONE Championship’s biggest event ever, and it’s going to be on primetime television in the United States,” she said
“It’s an amazing feeling to be in the headliner, and I’m going to do my best and show the US fans and the world what I’m made of and what ONE Championship is all about.”
Xiong is quick to pay credit to her coaches and teammates at Bali MMA, for helping her develop as an athlete.
“Training in Bali MMA is amazing. We have a really good gym over there, an amazing, talented group of guys, and for me, it feels like home,” Xiong explained.
“Bali MMA has helped me become who I am today as a fighter, and I’ll always be grateful for how they’ve supported me and how they’ve molded me into the champion that I am Bali. There’s nothing better than being able to put in the work in the gym and then be able to relax in paradise afterward. “
If Xiong can add one more title to her trophy cabinet this weekend, she will undoubtedly be due an extended vacation.
The prelims for ONE: CENTURY PART I start on B/R Live at 8:00 pm (EST). The main card will start at 11:00 pm EST and will be screened on TNT and B/R Live on Saturday, 12 October.