For the first time in over a year, Adrian “The Hunter” Pang (22-10-2) is feeling 100 per cent. Now fully recovered from a serious leg injury, he is prepared to make a statement in the lightweight division.
The card, which features ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren defending the belt against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki in the headlining attraction, broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Pang has paid close attention to the rise of Khan. His 23-year-old opponent is riding a five-bout win streak, holds the record for most knockouts in ONE Championship history at seven, and has been vocal about his desire for a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
The veteran Pang wants to see for himself just how tough and dangerous the Singaporean claims to be.
“It is like the young bull versus the old bull,” he begins. “I actually wanted to compete against him. I thought it would be a tough match for me. He is young and he will have heaps of energy, but he has not had a real good matchup yet.
“I have competed all around the world, I have been up and I have been down, so I will be the one to give it to him.”
The last two times Pang graced the ONE cage was over a year ago, but he was unable to compete to the best of his ability.
In the weeks leading up to his title eliminator against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD in August 2016, he began experiencing pain in his right leg, but was unsure what to make of it. He would lose the exhilarating three-round affair via unanimous decision.
That pain worsened when he went to Thailand to train with Phuket Top Team later that October, in anticipation of his forthcoming clash with Roger Huerta. As he left a souvenir shop to catch a flight back home to Australia, a scooter crashed into Pang, which caused him to fall onto the pavement.
Fortunately, he was relatively unhurt. Or so he thought.
Although Pang had been visiting doctors and specialists to find out what the cause of the pain was, they could not find anything. Thinking nothing of it, Pang still kept his obligation to compete against Huerta at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR the following month. He fell on the wrong side of a split decision, and admits his mobility was a factor.
“I was basically dragging my leg,” he says. “I could not kick it and I could not go backwards, even though I do not like to go backwards.”
Soon thereafter, following many different tests, x-rays, and CT scans, he was finally diagnosed with a fractured calcaneus.
“It does not sound real tough,” he says with a chuckle. “They found this little spot in my shin. Then we had this digital CT scan and they found this little bone. It was [between] my tibia and fibula, where there was something the size of a chicken bone fusing them together, so that is why I had no motion in my shin.
Pang had surgery to correct the issue this past Match, and following a recovery period to rehabilitate the injury, “The Hunter” is back.
The Australian lightweight veteran commenced training weeks following the procedure, and now he is excited at the prospect of meeting Khan in the young lion’s hometown of Singapore on 24 November.
Pang is currently training twice a day at the gym he owns and operates, Integrated MMA, which has become one of the most popular martial arts facilities in the country. Each session runs anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, and he focuses on a variety of disciplines including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, and wrestling. He also dedicates some of those sessions to strength and conditioning.
“The Hunter” will need to be at his absolute best to defeat Khan, who has been on an absolute tear.
Khan, a product of the prestigious Evolve MMA, is riding a five-bout win streak, and holds the record for most knockouts in ONE Championship history with seven. He is looking put his Australian counterpart to sleep and extend both of his streaks in the hope of getting a world title shot.
That will be easier said than done, as Pang is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has an affinity for striking and a granite chin. In fact, he has never been knocked out, and that is something he is proud of.
“I have been competing for over 15 years,” the Brisbane native says. “If he thinks he is going to knock me out, he’d better think of something different, because positive thinking is not going to help him.
“No one has ever knocked me out, so if he were to do it, then fine — let him be the first.”
Also, Khan is not the only one who is looking for a world title shot. Pang still wants a chance to become a world champion, and he knows time is ticking. If he were to string together a few victories and get a world title opportunity, it would be the icing on the cake for his 16-year career.
Even if that means a future clash with fellow countryman and new world champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen.
“I will go up against whoever the world champ is,” he says. “Obviously everyone is hunting for the belt, so if I have the opportunity to go up against Martin, then I will take it with both hands, for sure.”