Ma Xu Dong (5-2) will return to ONE Championship for his sophomore outing in the world’s largest martial arts organization on Friday, 26 October.
The Chinese athlete will meet Afghanistan’s Ahmad Qais Jasoor (4-1) in a bantamweight clash at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS in Yangon, Myanmar, and both men are keen to register their first victory in the promotion.
“Tank” engaged in a thrilling back-and-forth contest with compatriot Zhao Zhi Kang back in July, and after fans got to see his relentless striking attacks and incredible durability, they will have an idea of what to expect when he steps into the cage inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
Here is everything you need to know about the 27-year-old combatant.
Humble, Yet Happy
Ma was born in Tongxin, which is located in the Northwestern Ningxia region of China.
It is an area where poverty is rife, but “Tank” was content. His parents were farmers and worked hard to provide for his family, which was close-knit and caring.
“I had a very happy childhood. I had a very good relationship with my parents, and loved them very much, and I have two brothers,” he says.
“The happiest memories of my childhood were accompanying my parents to the mountains to harvest crops, and playing happily with other children.”
Ma was focused on his studies at school, and despite the economic hardship around him, he made the most of what he had.
Without too many other options on the table, he lived up to his moniker and joined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), like more than two million of his countrymen.
A Late Start In Martial Arts
It wasn’t until Ma left the PLA that his passion for martial arts was ignited. After experiencing the monotony of life as a van driver, he decided to follow his dreams of an athletic career.
He moved to Xi’an and started work as a fitness coach, but he would not rest until he found a way to channel his enthusiasm for martial arts.
“I couldn’t let go of my dream,” he says. “I looked for clubs everywhere in Xi’an. I met my master, Yang Jinshuai, and my team at the age of 25, and I began to train regularly.”
Ma initially started in the striking arts. He amassed a 12-3 kickboxing record against top opposition from around the globe, including rivals from Russia and Iran. However, it was mixed martial arts that really motivated him.
“In the beginning, I attended boxing fights and free fighting competitions. After all, the opportunity to fight is very precious,” he explains.
“Later, I slowly found that mixed martial arts was more suitable for me, and then resolutely started exploring it.”
Under the tutelage of master Yang and the other coaches at Sihai Lien Cheng Team, “Tank” rounded out his game, and he committed himself to the sport with every ounce of his being.
“Sihai Lien Cheng is my second home,” he explains. “There are many brothers and sisters there, and we all train together and pursue our dreams.”
Taking A Chance
The biggest opportunity of Ma’s young career came when he signed to face Zhao at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS in Guangzhou on Saturday, 7 July.
However, he only had two days to prepare for a heavier opponent with much more experience. Though the circumstances were not ideal, the man from Tongxin signed on the dotted line for the chance to make his ONE debut.
“I hesitated for a while, but my master and his team helped me analyze the situation, and I decided to compete,” he says.
“It was my dream to be able to fight in such a high-end international promotion like ONE.”
The odds were always going to be stacked against him, but Ma shocked his opponent in the first round with some hard punches and spectacular takedowns.
Despite facing some difficult circumstances, Ma gave it his all in a fearless performance, and he earned the chance to compete again in The Home Of Martial Arts under more favorable circumstances.
“Later, I got the ONE contract,” he reveals. “It was an unexpected surprise, so I’m really happy.”
On The Rebound
Now standing at 5-2 and signed with world’s largest martial arts organization, Ma can already say he has achieved one of his goals. However, he is far from satisfied.
The Tongxin native wants to keep improving so he can elevate his status in the bustling bantamweight division.
“I know I am not good enough yet, but I must be the hardest working fighter,” he says. “I need to train harder to get a better result.”
When he meets Jasoor in Yangon, it will be his first contest outside of China, and a chance to proudly fly the flag of his motherland. This gives him even more motivation to succeed, and he will do anything to prevail.
“When you go abroad, you represent not only yourself, but China, so there is pressure,” he says.
“I must win this time. I am well prepared. For the team, for the country, I want to win this bout.”
In his debut, Ma showed all the attributes that cannot be taught – heart, desire, and tenacity. With a full camp to hone his skills and his team behind him, “Tank” hopes to claim victory in Myanmar and kickstart his career on the global stage for martial arts.