It is always a special evening when ONE Championship returns home to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which has hosted some of the most spectacular martial arts contests in the cage. This Friday, 24 November, the world’s best martial artists will be once again be vying for supremacy at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT.
Before our esteemed warriors step inside the ONE cage, let’s take a brief look at the incredibly high stakes involved for some of the card’s biggest stars.
#1 An Immortal Legacy
After eight years of professional competition, which saw him rise through the ranks to become the greatest welterweight in the world, undefeated 33-year-old ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren has decided to put his amazing career behind him, and retire at the top of his game.
The American is not going to take the easy way out, however. In order for him to retire as world champion with his perfect record intact, he will need to defeat former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, who is widely considered to be Asia’s greatest martial artist.
Askren is a rare phenomenon. He has won a pair of NCAA Division I Wrestling Titles and represented the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and then translated those elite grappling skills marvelously to the cage. Defeating a top talent such as Aoki would cap off an incredible martial arts career, extend his legacy and undoubtedly place him amongst the best all-time pound-for-pound martial artists on the planet.
#2 A Second World Championship
Aoki, the former ONE Lightweight World Champion, tormented the promotion’s lightweight division for three years, before dropping the belt to Eduard Folayang in November 2016. Now, he has an opportunity to regain all of his lost glory, and cement his status as one of Asia’s best-ever.
On Friday evening, he will attempt to follow in Martin Nguyen’s footsteps, and claim a world championship in a second weight class by dethroning Askren. Aoki can also be the first, and only, martial artist to ever defeat the American Olympic wrestler. He will only have one chance to do the latter, however, because Askren will retire following the bout on 24 November.
#3 A Place At The Top Of The Lightweight Ranks
Following his amazing knockout victory over Jaroslav Jartim this past September, where he set the record for the most knockouts in ONE history at seven, Khan signaled his readiness to challenge one of the top competitors in the lightweight division. The Singaporean is on a five-bout win streak, and with victory over a battle-tested veteran such as Pang, he could be knocking on the door for an opportunity at the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
Pang, quite the veteran martial artist with 34 professional bouts to his name, remains as deadly as ever with his incredible strength, work ethic, and durability. Although the Australian has dropped his last two contests, both being incredibly close decisions to Roger Huerta and eventual world champion Eduard Folayang, he showed true warrior spirit competing through a hidden fracture in his leg.
Now at full health and mobility, Pang is looking to prove that he is better than ever, and can still compete with the best of the lightweight division. Needless to say, he still wants his shot at adding a world championship to his trophy-laden cabinet.
#4 Redemption And A World Title Shot
When ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee pulled out due to injury a few weeks ago, her highly-anticipated rematch against Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi was left in doubt. Luckily, however, the Philippines’ Gina “Conviction” Iniong would step in on short notice to fill in for the injured champion, allowing the Japanese champion to stay on the card.
Both Yamaguchi and Iniong are quite familiar with the other, having previously clashed in 2014. Although Iniong earned the split decision nod on that occasion, she believes Yamaguchi will be a completely different martial artist entering their upcoming bout. Yamaguchi, on the other hand, is more than willing to avenge that blemish on her record, so much so that she is risking her world title shot.
With the two woman warriors at the top of the atomweight landscape, it’s a winner-takes-all scenario. The winner of this bout will not only be able to call themselves the better martial artist, she will also be at the head of the line for a crack at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship as soon as Lee makes a full recovery.
#5 A Chance To Make History
At the press conference for ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT on Wednesday, 22 November, ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced that Tiffany “No Chill” Teo would be granted a world title shot if she were to defeat India’s Puja Tomar on Friday.
Teo, who holds a perfect 6-0 record, is a homegrown Singaporean martial artist who has worked her way up through the ranks. Ever since her promotional debut at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016, she has continued to dominate the opposition, and has looked increasingly more polished every time she enters the cage.
With another dynamic victory, she earns an opportunity to compete for the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship, and make history. But first, she must do her part and get past Tomar.