Adrian “The Hunter” Pang cannot wait to get back to action.
The ONE Championship veteran has suffered through a few heartbreaking losses in his most recent bouts, but that has not deterred him from wanting to get back into the cage to challenge himself against the best lightweights in the world.
Pang has long been considered one of the top athletes in the promotion’s deep lightweight division, and has unfortunately come up short against the likes of former world champion Eduard Folayang and rising superstar Amir Khan.
Though he fell to Khan in his last bout, taking a decision loss in their November 2017 clash, it has only motivated Pang. In fact, the 40-year-old Australian has a brand new fire burning inside of him.
In this exclusive interview, Pang looks back at his contest with Khan, what lies ahead of him, and his long-term plans in ONE.
ONE: Let’s talk about your recent bout with Amir Khan at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT. What are your thoughts on that match, and what did you think about your performance?
AP: I knew he had a lot of good matches, and he has knocked out a lot of people. He is hyped up as a nice young athlete, and he is a great competitor and a really great martial artist. I thought with my style, if he would engage with me, then I would definitely be able to put him away. But credit to him and his coaching staff.
He kind of hit me and moved, and kept me at range. He did not beat me up, or beat me in a match. He kind of out-pointed me in a game. It has been a long time since anybody has done that to me, so I definitely did not expect the match to play out the way it did. I thought he would come in and try to finish me, which would give me the opportunity to get my hands on him. But it did not work out like that. Full credit to him and his camp, and hopefully, he gets his title shot.
ONE: What is the biggest takeaway from that loss for you?
AP: I probably should have just kept moving forward, but anyone who watches the match will see I kept moving forward. Even when he kicked me in the head, I was not backing down. I was trying to take the match to him, and that is all I could do. I felt the match get away [from me]. I do not know what to take away from it. I think I had the right game plan.
ONE: How did it feel to be back in the ONE cage after a year away?
AP: For some reason, I have been getting delayed a lot between matches. But that is out of my control. I had opponents pull out on me. I have competed injured because I want those opportunities. I tore my PCL two weeks before my match, but I wanted to compete so bad that I would have went in with a torn ACL if they would have let me tape it. That is not taking anything away from Amir at all. It’s just at my age now, my injuries are not healing up.
I did not feel nervous or rusty. I felt like I had 15 minutes to show what I could do, and I did not get the opportunity to do that. I had flashes of brilliance. He had flashes of brilliance. But I would not call it an awesome match. I felt like I got out-pointed in a karate match. That is what it felt like to me. It is hard to lose a match when you know you did not get your butt kicked.
ONE: Your father was at the show. What was it like to have him there for event week and watch you compete?
AP: In Asian culture, fathers do not give [their children] much credit or pats on the back. He has never been like that. Just because it is your birthday or Christmas does not make it any different than any other day. I had a severe injury in 2012, like career-threatening, and I was told I would never compete again. I came back a year and a half later, and I knocked out the number one-ranked lightweight in Australia. I stopped him inside one round, and [my dad] came to that match, and has been coming ever since.
Every match I get to still have, I am blessed. [My father] came to China, he came to Malaysia, and now he has been to Singapore twice. The only other match he watched in my 16-year career was when I won my first Australian Championship in 2004.
It’s special. He is from Papua New Guinea, so I do not see him very much. But he is like an old-school Chinese from the streets, so the fact he comes and gives me a nod or a slap on the back, it means a lot to him. He is hard to impress. He is hard to talk to. He does not want to hear small talk. He hates small talk. My dad runs a tight ship. He runs a huge business empire in Papua New Guinea, and has allowed me to stay in Australia and pursue my dream. I am honored to have him there, and that he has not told me to quit yet.
ONE: Looking ahead, what is the plan going forward?
AP: I want to keep competing. I am still hungry, but I do not have this dream of always being the world champion all the time. I have been a champion, and being a world champion for ONE would be the icing on the cake. But I had titles, and I have faced great competition. I just want to have good matches. I do not care about a title anymore. I do care about being able to test myself while I still can, and while I still feel able.
ONE: You teased on Facebook that you had big plans for 2018. Was that specific to competing or something else?
AP: I run a big gym in Brisbane [Integrated MMA]. We are Australia’s biggest gym, and we have produced the most champions, including myself. So I have big plans for my gym [and for my athletes]. I put a lot into my gym.
As an athlete, you got to be very selfish, but anybody who knows me knows I am one of the most selfless people out there. I give a lot, and I do not take a lot. I just want the best for my guys. When I was coming up during the days of martial arts on VHS cassettes, you did not get what these kids get now. So I just try to impart all my knowledge on them.
ONE: Obviously running a gym and teaching students keeps you rather busy. But do you still love martial arts yourself? Do you still love the challenge?
AP: That is why I still do it. I love challenging myself. I would compete if there was no crowd there and did not have Instagram to post about it. I would still face somebody. That’s it.
I am competing on the world stage. I am facing big names at the top of the ladder, so it is hard sometimes training myself and training my athletes to be successful. That becomes a test, because I do not have as much time for myself as I should have. But at my age, I would not have it any other way. I love helping people out. I love seeing my guys win.
When I lose, I am devastated. Since my comeback [after my injury in 2012], I have knocked out the top lightweight in Australia. I submitted [Vincent] Latoel. I knocked out Peter Davis in 48 seconds. I am trying to finish you. I am not trying to tap my way out to a decision and look boring. I will go out swinging. I know with ONE, I am going to have some big matches this year, and that is what I cannot wait to do.