‘Don’t Blink’ – New And Improved Tang Kai Promises Quick Knockout In World Title Rematch With Thanh Le

Thanh Le and Tang Kai face each other at ONE 160

Reigning ONE Featherweight MMA World Champion Tang Kai is cool, calm, and collected ahead of his highly anticipated rematch with interim titleholder Thanh Le at ONE 166: Qatar.

Set to go down this Friday at the Lusail Sports Arena, that World Title showdown will mark the Chinese star’s first defense of his gold – and his first appearance since winning a five-round war over Le in August 2022.

Injuries forced Tang on the sidelines for nearly 18 months following his crowning moment.

But despite the extended layoff, he’s confident he’ll perform at his best when the lights are brightest at this blockbuster event – ONE’s historic debut in Qatar.

The 28-year-old spoke to onefc.com about competing at ONE 166:

“I really appreciate that ONE chose to have my first World Title defense on such an important card, and I will live up to the expectations of the global audience for this title fight.”

A prolific finisher renowned for his thunderous power, Tang was unable to secure his 14th career knockout against Le.

But while he didn’t get the finish in that fight, he says he’s not the least disappointed about his World Title-winning performance:

“I think it’s normal that I went five rounds as a challenger. The most important thing for a professional fighter is to win.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, the featherweight MMA king has enlisted the help of some new coaches to round out his overall MMA game.

With an added focus on transitioning between phases of the sport, Tang says he’s leveled up and will look like a new fighter on March 1:

“Our new coaching team comes from Dagestan, Russia, and focuses more on simple and practical fighting styles.

“The seamless transition from striking to the ground is the strength of the Russian style of fighting, and I hope that the fans will be able to see a different me – a fully upgraded version.”

Now, as a ONE World Champion with new and improved skills, the man from Qingdao fully expects to finish Le – and finish him early.

Tang added:

“I only want to focus on winning, and of course, the best way to win is to have an early finish. Don’t blink, I’ll KO him very quickly.”

Tang Kai Not Concerned About Thanh Le’s Leg Locks

While Tang Kai was out of action, Thanh Le stayed busy.

In October 2023, the Vietnamese-American veteran needed just 62 seconds to heel hook Russian phenom Ilya Freymanov for a submission win, capturing the ONE Interim Featherweight MMA World Title.

That marked just the second submission of Le’s career and his first win via leg lock. For his part, Tang credited his rival’s evolution as an all-around MMA athlete: 

“Thanh Le has rich fighting experience, so there are a lot of things I can learn from him. Last time out, he had a nice victory, and he proved that he has some hidden fighting skills that he had never shown before.

While Le’s heel hook victory was both impressive and surprising, Tang is not overly concerned about protecting against leg locks in the rematch.

That’s because he carries supreme confidence in his training, positive that he’ll be ready for any scenario at ONE 166:

“My preparations have always been comprehensive, and of course, I will not change my strategy because of a heel hook.

“I don’t think it really matters, because a heel hook is not very complex, and anyone can do it.”

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