Nobody becomes a World Champion overnight.
It is easy to see someone burst onto the international stage to achieve glory, and assume that success came quickly. However, there is always a tale of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice behind any elite athlete’s achievements.
As ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan (15-1) prepares to defend her belt for the second time at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai, China on Saturday, 8 September, she reveals her story is anything but one of instant success.
Capturing gold in the world’s largest martial arts organization was her reward for decades of hard work.
Xiong was a competitive weightlifter during her adolescence, but it was a shared love with her dad that set her on the path to martial arts greatness.
“I liked boxing,” the 30-year-old says. “My father always watched it when I was young.”
She found a passion right away, and excelled in the ring.
“The Panda” was a prolific competitor — she boxed for Shandong’s provincial team, and finished third in the 2007 National Women’s Boxing Championship. After that, she joined the Chinese national boxing team.
That achievement was a proud moment for the patriotic athlete, as well as the family that had supported her all the way.
Xiong’s life changed in 2013 when she discovered mixed martial arts.
The Chinese athlete’s curiosity led her to pursue the new avenue, and she brought the lessons from her days as a pugilist with her.
“Boxing made me tougher, and I would not quit easily,” she explains.
“There was lots of gold, silver, and bronze medals that I won in my boxing career, but I was more willing to focus on my career in mixed martial arts.”
It is a daunting task to go from being an expert in one sport to a novice in another – especially when it is not established in the mainstream consciousness, and is still gaining acceptance in some circles.
"The Panda" turned heads with this stunning debut!Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Tuesday, August 21, 2018
However, “The Panda” knew there was a calling for her outside of boxing.
“I wanted to see a new, different me,” she says.
“I knew I could do it. I had faith in my heart. I wanted to do something different, and it was more challenging.
“I am a person who likes to challenge myself – who wants to soar higher and further. So I challenge myself to make what is impossible, possible. Even if there is no hope for success, I try my best to create that hope.”
Xiong met the challenges head-on, despite some early difficulties.
She recalls her first time grappling — one of the many new skills she would have to acquire to be successful inside the cage.
“I was nervous, excited, and worried,” she admits.
“When those feelings hit you at the same time, it actually gives you a special motivation.”
Thrilled and humbled by the vast amount of new ground to cover, she committed herself entirely to her new vocation.
By 2014, she had opted to skip competing in the amateur ranks to jump in at the deep end, and make her professional debut.
The resilience Xiong had already built helped her to overcome opposition from across the globe, and rack up 12 wins before making her ONE Championship debut. From there, she blitzed her way to the gold by winning two bouts in a matter of a month and a half.
Xiong first defeated April Osenio via first-round TKO in December 2017, and then claimed the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship in January with a thrilling fourth-round TKO of then-unbeaten rival Tiffany Teo.
She became the first Chinese athlete to win a mixed martial arts World Title, which was as much a testament to her perseverance as it is her skills.
“There were some other girls, but they did not make it to the end,” she says.
“They gave it up. I was not treated differently, because I never give up on what I really want.”
Xiong got to this point by building on the immense striking skills she possessed, and rounding out her game.
The athlete has participated in various grappling competitions throughout the past five years – even winning the China Open BJJ Tournament in 2017. “The Panda” embraces growth and evolution by venturing out of her comfort zone and immersing herself in the unfamiliar.
In fact, she is willing to go anywhere to become the best martial artist she can be. She has trained in her native China, in Thailand, and now, in Indonesia, where she is fine-tuning her skill set at Bali MMA.
“Every place has a new thing for me to learn,” she says. “As long as there are new things to learn, I will be like a sponge.”
Her continued desire to get better is what helps to make her a World Champion.
She has never relied solely on the foundations she built in boxing, but sought to improve herself as a well-rounded martial artist.
Now, Xiong will show the world her latest improvements at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON. She faces Brazil’s Samara Santos (12-5-1) in the main event, and will look to leave the Baoshan Arena the same way she enters – with the gold.
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast