Tiffany “Soul Crusher” Teo is on a roll. The undefeated Singaporean has won four straight bouts in dominant fashion, but she is being dealt a wild card for her next fight.
On 10 February, the 27-year-old strawweight will clash with wushu-sanda Gold Medalist Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in Kuala Lumpur.
This match serves as Gaol’s official introduction into mixed martial arts. Although the Indonesian is known as a dangerous striker, having competed previously in Muay Thai, boxing, and wushu competition, relatively little is known about her ground game.
To the well-rounded Teo, none of that matters. She is ready for all scenarios.
“I am confident of winning this fight. It is her pro MMA debut and I have no idea how she is going to fight,” Teo says. “I am ready to strike and I am confident of submitting her if the fight goes to the ground. I will let the fight unfold and react accordingly.”
So far, Teo has proven to be in complete control every time she enters the cage. But really, she has always maintained a sense of control, even when venturing out of her comfort zone.
Originally born in Brunei, Teo’s family relocated to Singapore when she was three-years-old. Along with her older brother and sister, she was raised in a strict environment, excelled at school, and was well-behaved. Aside from a brief stint on the track and field squad, she never pursued athletics.
That changed in 2008. At the tender age of 18 while awaiting her GCE A-Level results, she decided to try something new. Something different. Something athletic. Her friend’s cousin was teaching taekwondo and she gave it a try. A year into her training, she was eager to learn something else.
“I wanted more, and [television program] The Contender Asia was getting popular in Singapore,” she recalls. “That sparked my interest in Muay Thai.”
Teo trained in Muay Thai for nearly two years before taking a break to study psychology at the University of Buffalo. Upon her return in December 2012, however, she wanted to go beyond the gym walls and have a fight. Just one fight.
“Funny thing is, when I first decided that I wanted to fight, it was more of a tick off my bucket list,” she admits. “I thought I would have my first fight and I would be done. Mission accomplished. Boom.”
She linked up with Arvind Lalwani, veteran fighter and head coach of Juggernaut Fight Club. A month into her training, she fulfilled her bucket list goal. The Singaporean took an amateur Muay Thai fight.
However, she lost. It was perhaps one of the few times Teo was not in control. She was understandably disappointed, but if anything, it lit a fire within her.
“It is a blessing in disguise that I lost my first fight. Losing sucks, especially with the knowledge that it was a close fight,” she offers. “I re-evaluated my weaknesses from the fight and figured I had to work more with my hands. That was how I picked up boxing.”
Evidently, the bucket list had gotten a little longer. Teo spent a year away from competition to focus on the sweet science. Needless to say, she got sweet at it — so sweet, in fact, she defeated Efasha Kamarudin in her first boxing match, and earned a spot on the Singaporean National Boxing Team.
While she was getting an advanced education in boxing, she happened to finish up her collegiate studies. After obtaining her Bachelor of Art in Psychology in 2013, she put her degree to good use, and currently works as a behavioral therapist for children with autism and ADHD.
“I have been doing research related to the field of developmental psychology and neuroscience as an intern, and also my first job after graduation,” she offers. “Transitioning into helping kids with autism and ADHD was kind of natural, I guess. It is challenging, but knowing that you are making a positive change to someone’s life makes it really satisfying.”
However, the therapist was not entirely satisfied with her combat sports career. She added Brazilian jiu-jitsu to her bag of tricks in 2015, captured 11 gold medals in local tournaments, and as of this past January, was awarded her blue belt.
Now armed with a diverse, and fairly decorated, martial arts background, it was only logical to follow through with the next step — tackle the world of mixed martial arts.
Since debuting in 2016, the unbeaten “Soul Crusher” has racked up four wins, two via TKO and another two by submission. Most recently, she made her first appearance in ONE Championship last November — on her birthday, no less — at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR, where she tapped out Walaa Abbas with a rear-naked choke. Despite achieving victory in the big show, she was not impressed by her own performance.
“It was my first time fighting in front of a crowd of that scale,” she shared. “I did not know what to expect and the nerves kind of got to me. I was not as relaxed as I usually am for my past fights. Even though I got the victory, I felt like there were a lot of things I had to work on.”
Even so, Teo never anticipated any of this. She grew up in a strict household with the expectation to excel in school and pursue a higher education in order to get a lucrative, and safe, job — the type of job that does not involve fighting inside a cage, let alone break a nail.
That was what she did. The Singaporean received her degree, and she has a safe job where she helps children with special needs. It just so happens she found another passion, one she also excels at, and she must chase that passion wherever it may lead.
“When I first started martial arts, I had zero intentions of becoming a professional fighter. If you asked me where I would see myself in five to ten years when I was 18, I would never have imagined myself to be a professional fighter. I would probably think that I would be pursuing my PhD in Developmental Psychology,” she explains.
“I did not intend to pursue [mixed martial arts] as a career, but I found myself finding ways to arrange my time around my training. That was when I decided that fighting is something I want to commit myself to, and I just cannot help dreaming the same dream.”
Now, Teo is in control of her fate. The dream, and bucket list, will not be fulfilled until she becomes a ONE Champion, but first she must complete her next mission. It is less than a week away. The objective is to defeat Gaol and leave Malaysia with her arm raised.