On 20 January, “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan made history, when she defeated Tiffany “No Chill” Teo to become the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion, and China’s first-ever world champion in the cage.
The Chinese starlet truly displayed the heart of a champion, as she trained through the recent deaths of her grandparents, and battled through a broken right hand to stop Teo in the fourth round via strikes.
It was an incredible performance, and the whole experience continues to boost Xiong’s morale. The 30-year-old is quick to say, “My confidence is growing day by day. Especially with ONE, I feel like I am changing into a more confident person.”
Now, “The Panda” has been unleashed. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her memorable night in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the future of the women’s strawweight division.
ONE: You had an incredible performance against Tiffany Teo at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE. What was the game plan going into the match?
XJN: I always prefer to react during my matches. I can see and react very quickly as long as I have my eyes on my opponent, so I basically did not prepare any strategy before the match.
ONE: In what ways did Tiffany surprise you?
XJN: She is a very strong competitor. In the second round, I could feel my hand was broken, but I acted calm, and I tried to hang on. I was really trying hard not let anyone see that my hand was injured. Because she is a tough martial artist, she inspired me in the same way. We encouraged each other at some point.
ONE: What does it mean to you to be the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion?
XJN: I went through a lot, some things you cannot even imagine. Some things that should not happen to a girl my age. But I have been through it, and when I look back at it, I feel very proud of myself. The pressure of training is nothing compared to the life I have been living. When other girls went shopping, I stayed at the gym. But I never regretted it. Training is my passion. But deep in my heart, I do enjoy some “little girl” moments, too.
ONE: Is it difficult finding a balance between being a professional athlete and experiencing those moments?
XJN: If you know me well personally, then you will see I am a very “panda-like” girl. The panda is a very cute animal in China. I like reading books and sending cute emojis. But when I train, I can become a tiger. I think those are the two sides of me. And I enjoy both sides. It is like the yin and the yang in Chinese culture. That makes my life more interesting and easier to handle.
ONE: Your grandparents passed away during your training camp. How were you able to stay focused and win the world title?
XJN: That was the saddest time in my life. I do not know if you can understand this feeling. I felt like it was part of me dying. The first night when I heard the news, I cried the whole night. Sometimes when I trained, I cried when I thought of them. But when I realized that seeing me win was also a part of their dreams, I continued training.
ONE: Now that you are a world champion, what are your goals, and what would you like to see happen in the women’s strawweight division?
XJN: I will not rest, and I will keep training and competing. I will definitely defend my belt, and I will maintain the glory of Chinese martial artists — especially for all the women martial artists. I will train harder and be modest. Also, I would like to see more and more female athletes join because ONE is becoming better and better, and letting the world see women can also compete in a respectful and inspiring way is very good for sports.
ONE: Lastly, as a world champion, how do you want to inspire China and people all throughout the world?
XJN: This is a chance for me to prove I can work harder, I can be nicer to people, and I can be more modest. Also, this is a chance for me to show other people that while the times you go through at the moment might be dark, but if you are patient enough, you will eventually see the light.
With ONE, people can see that Chinese martial artists can shine and are skillful. I am very glad I could use my victory as a way to inspire them. Thanks to all the people who have supported me, I will continue to compete. Every breath I take, it is for you.