Instead, the division’s #1 contender simply views their matchup as a chance to showcase his lethal stand-up skills before challenging for the gold later in 2022.
“Tang Kai is a striker and so am I, and there’s this thing between striking athletes – it’s a matter of pride, we all believe we are the best,” the South Korean slugger says.
“People always wonder what will happen when I go up against a strong striker, thinking that I won’t make it. It’s hard for me to accept because of my pride. I want to prove them wrong.”
With that in mind, “The Fighting God” accepted a battle with the rising Chinese striker. But while some believe Kim is taking a big risk in doing so, he does not feel the same way.
“Tang has had consecutive wins and I received an offer so I felt like I would be running away from an opportunity to prove myself if I were to turn it down,” Kim says.
“And since I have a lot of time before the title shot, I just thought it would be a good warmup.”
The Seoul resident has captured all three of his ONE victories by knockout, with eight in total in his career. However, Tang also has three KOs in ONE, as well as 11 stoppages in 13 career victories.
Still, Kim doesn’t think his rival’s record stacks up alongside his own, and he sees faults in the Chinese athlete’s resume that make him confident about their battle in “The Lion City.”
“I really want to ask, who has he been up against? I don’t think Tang Kai has fought against any big-named athletes until now,” Kim says.
“I think Tang Kai is a strong fighter but, like I said, he hasn’t been up against someone stronger than himself before. I’m not looking down on them, but the athletes he won against are the ones I could have finished in the first round.
“After this match, I think Tang Kai will fall to the level where he’s someone not worth mentioning ever again.”
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Despite Kim’s confidence, Tang can’t be overlooked. He is riding an eight-fight winning streak that has pushed him to the #4 spot in the featherweight rankings.
“The Fighting God” accepts that the surging Qingdao native has some solid striking skills, though he doesn’t think they can match his own
Moreover, sees no threat from Tang’s grappling game.
“Tang Kai is not good at jiu-jitsu or wrestling from what I observed. I think his only core skill is striking so I’m guessing that’s all he will go for,” Kim offers.
“From a glance, I think he is normally fixated on one thing or sticks to the basics. He’s not really a fighter who has a lot of skills to offer. He’s just a fighter who really has his fundamentals ingrained in him.
“Looking at it, in some ways that’s scarier I guess, but for me, I know how to use certain skills based on the athlete I’m up against or the situation I am in, and fix up my moves as and when they are needed.
“I’m better than Tang Kai on all levels, but I saw that he is good with moves on his left side, both arms and legs, so I’m training my defenses against that since my attacking skills are already established.”
“The Fighting God” already seems to have won the match in his head, but he’ll need to do it for real on 28 January.
Kim won’t be charging in looking for the finish at all costs, but he does expect to put Tang away inside the distance to officially book his shot at the ONE Featherweight World Title.
“Tang Kai seems to think that he is the best striker out there. This time I’ll show him who is the best and then I will go for my title shot,” Kim adds.
“I’m not really greedy about going for a KO, but I’m like that in every fight. I don’t aim for it, but I think he will be finished when he receives a punch just like everyone else.”