Ev Ting (15-4) is close to a second crack at the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
The Malaysian-New Zealand dynamo is riding a two-bout win streak, and believes a decisive victory on Saturday, 23 June, will show he deserves another World Title opportunity.
However, in order to do that, he believes he must finish a martial artist he has long admired.
“I am absolutely not looking past him,” the 28-year-old Malaysian says.
“He is somebody I have looked up to for a while. I just feel I am that much more evolved, and I am that much more prepared and relevant in the division. I just have to prove it to everybody.”
Ting was re-motivated to work his way back to the top after he was outworked by Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in his first World Title bout. Though he went the distance, he ended up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision after 25 minutes in April 2017.
Last August, “E.T.” returned with a new fire. He tore through former ONE Welterweight World Champion Nobutatsu Suzuki, using his explosive ground and pound to TKO the Japanese stalwart in the opening stanza.
Six months later, he faced BJJ black belt Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton, in a bout between two of the lightweight division’s top contenders. The Malaysian’s more versatile attack helped him earn the split decision nod after a thrilling back-and-forth affair.
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“For Suzuki, I worked a lot on my point sparring and taekwondo, and it kind of showed with my distance, so I was glad to get the first-round finish,” Ting says.
“Ariel is a different type of animal. I was so confident I was going to knock him out, and that second round is when he ended up giving me the most trouble.
“That was an exciting fight. It pretty much came down to that third round, who was hungrier, and who wanted it more. I was glad I edged it out.
“Both Suzuki and Sexton are legends, and they would give anyone trouble in ONE Championship. I got two wins fighting the top guys, and I am working my way back up.”
The latest obstacle standing before Ting on the road to the division’s summit offers another interesting challenge.
Ando is a third-degree judo black belt armed with strong boxing and jiu-jitsu. That arsenal of skills, as well as his finishing ability, has led him to a dozen victories. It also helped him claim the Legend FC Lightweight Title in 2013.
Ting is not taking him lightly.
“Koji is no joke,” Ting says. “He is a [Legend FC Lightweight] champion, he has never been finished, and his stand-up and judo are on point.
“People are going to see him as somebody who just came off a loss, but he is definitely no chump. He is definitely very dangerous.”
In preparation for his showdown with Ando, “E.T.” has been training at Bali MMA.
Ting spent much of his early career training exclusively out of Auckland MMA in New Zealand, but now considers Bali MMA a second home of sorts. He has frequently spent time at the Indonesian martial arts oasis to help get used to to the Southeast Asian climate, and fine-tune his game.
“This is my fifth camp out here in Bali, so the results speak for themselves,” Ting explains.
“We win a lot of fights. We are a full-time, professional team out here that just embraces the grind.
“Obviously, the main reason [I come here] is the training camp, and the balance between all the different types of training – from nutrition, to conditioning, to wrestling and striking. It is a great balance with recovery as well. It seems to be working well. If it is not broken, don’t change it, right?
“E.T.” is hoping all of his efforts in Indonesia will pay off.
Ting desperately wants to get his second crack at the ONE Lightweight World Championship, and he knows that if he can be the first person to stop Ando inside the distance, he will put himself him in an advantageous position.
“If I could get a significant and solid finish, I would feel that I am right there for the title shot,” Ting says.
“That is definitely the goal – to finish him, and then call out the World Champion for my title shot. That is the plan.”