Throughout his career with ONE Championship, Adrian “The Hunter” Pang has been one of the most thrilling competitors in the organization. The hard-hitting Aussie is a BJJ black belt who simply does not engage in a boring contest. He always brings the fireworks.
Pang may be 40 years of age, but he is not discouraged in his career. In fact, he is as motivated as ever. He absolutely loves the competition, and training alongside some of the best up-and-coming talents at his Integrated MMA gym in Brisbane, Australia.
Merely a week from the event, Pang spoke to us about his last match with Amir Khan, his upcoming tilt with Banario, the success of his fellow Australians, and what lies ahead of him in 2018 and beyond.
ONE Championship: Last time we spoke, you were coming back from a knee injury. How are you feeling now?
Adrian Pang: Well, I smashed my knee two weeks before my last contest, and I thought it was just a bit swollen. The swelling went down, and I could not run much, but I had no idea it was as bad as it was until afterwards.
I had to get an MRI, and I had a torn PCL. Basically, my knee was just torn [badly], and was unstable. I did not have surgery, but they said come back in three months’ time. I came back exactly in three months’ time, and the scar tissue should have healed up.
I came back, and they said go for it. It is still not 100 percent, but it is never going to be, so I am happy. I tore my knee, but I was not going to pull out of the bout, and I was not going to sit back because I hurt my knee. No matter what happens, you are never going to be 100 percent. So I am happy with where I am at.
ONE: You have rarely dealt with defeat, but now you are on a three-bout skid. Do you feel like your back is against the wall at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR?
AP: The bouts are not getting easier for me. I’ve lost three in a row. I am not facing someone that has lost three in a row, or even two in a row. Honorio has won four in a row. Amir [Khan] had won how many in a row? I will face anyone if I am given time to prepare for them.
It feels like crap because I am 40, so it just sucks. I know I cannot [compete] forever, but I would love to do it forever, and it is going to feel like crap when I have to stop.
Yes, I have been losing, but it is not like I am getting my butt handed to me, or my head knocked out to where I have to say, ‘Hey, it is time to hang up the gloves.’ With people trying to run around and out-point me, it is like I have not really lost a bout. It still hurts all the same, but I do not feel that my back is against the wall.
ONE: There is no exact time limit on when an athlete has to retire from this sport, but where is your head at right now?
AP: It depends on the individual, not so much your age. Sure, I am a little bit more tired than I used to be, and my injuries hang around a little bit longer, but I’ve still got it. I still actively coach in my gym, and I am a hands-on guy. I lead by example.
I’ve got a young two-time Australian champion [in the gym], and I am hanging in there with him, and teaching him my tricks. I still feel great, and I still feel I can do it. I just want exciting bouts.
They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but I have been there, done that, and I am always evolving. I am not stuck in the 1980s.
ONE: Between coaching and training, how much does that inspire the athletes at your gym? And how important is it to teach through personal experiences?
AP: I am not one of the boys because I am older, but I always led by example. If I am making the boys do 100 push-ups, then I am doing 100 push-ups. Some coaches sit there and bark orders, but they cannot actually do it themselves.
I pride myself on leading by example, and obviously when I am winning, I get more members [at the gym]. But my students know I am giving it my all whether I win, lose, or draw. They know I am not shortcutting myself. It is a little harder because I have to run the show, as well as train myself, so I do not get the coaching that I need. But I am cool with it.
I have some undefeated boys in my gym now, and they are going to be huge one day, so seeing them win [now] is so cool. This can be a selfish sport, but not on my team. We stand for each other, and there are no egos.
ONE: There are several Australians making waves in ONE right now. What are your thoughts on that, and do you share a relationship with any of those guys?
AP: We are finally catching up. We have always been tough, and we have been producing champions since 2001. It is cool. I see Martin Nguyen doing well, and Reece McLaren [is doing well], and it is great.
We are all for one, and one for all down here. When they win, I am happy. When Martin knocked out Eduard [Folayang] in my division, I did not feel threatened. I just felt happy that another Australian won the gold, especially the way that he did it.
ONE: How about if it came to a point of competing against another Australian, like Martin? How would that go?
AP: It is not like we are training partners. I know him, and we are not, like, best friends. He would face me, and if he had the belt, I would face him. But I do not like talking about that too much because everybody is calling Martin out. He has two belts, and everybody should just shut their mouths, and get in line.