When these strawweight mixed martial artists initially fought back in November 2019, Miao pressured “The Jaguar” with a boxing-heavy attack in the first round. But as the Chinese athlete punched forward, Miado leaped into the air and connected with a devastating knee to the chin, instantly turning off his rival’s lights.
Now, the 28-year-old Filipino is looking to produce an even more dominant performance in the rematch and use this bout as a springboard to bigger things.
In this exclusive interview, Miado previews his second matchup with Miao, training with the Zamboanga siblings at Marrok Force in Thailand, and much more.
ONE Championship: Two years after knocking out Miao Li Tao with a flying knee, you’ll be facing him in a rematch. Did you expect that to happen so soon?
JM: Actually, I wasn’t expecting to face him again this early. But being a professional, I just have to take on whoever is in front of me. It’s been a while since I last competed, so I grabbed the opportunity and took him. Maybe he requested a rematch, so that’s why it’s taking place.
ONE: Miao has fought quite a bit since you faced off. How do you think he’s improved?
JM: His wrestling has improved a lot. His submission defense is so good. His posture has changed as well. He doesn’t just rush out on people – he’s not that aggressive anymore. There’s still aggression, but he’s not that reckless anymore.
ONE: Something interesting is that you’ve been training at Marrok Force in Bangkok for the past year. How did that come about?
JM: My wife and Denice [Zamboanga] are good friends. We heard that Marrok was opening its doors, so my wife talked to Denice to see if we could apply as scholars in the gym and be with Marrok Force for our next camp. Luckily, with the help of Denice and Drex [Zamboanga], they accepted us.
Last year in November, I flew in with my wife, but our baby had to stay in the Philippines. My wife returned back to the country a couple of months ago to check on our baby, but after my fight, I think she’ll be back here alongside our child.
ONE: What’s the advantage of training at Marrok Force?
JM: The advantage here is I get to focus on my training. When I was in the Philippines, even during training, my priority was coaching and teaching.
Here in Thailand, we just train all the time. Morning, evening, we just work. We just focus on our training. It also helps to have bigger guys as training partners here in Marrok. They’re not only big, but high-caliber training partners as well. I think that’s a big advantage.
ONE: How about the biggest struggle?
JM: Being far from my wife and my kid. That’s tough. Of course, I always want to have time for them, but that’s life. It’s better when they’re near because after you train, you can just go home and rest with them.
It’s hard because it’s the first time that I’m away with my family. I use my spare time training just to combat homesickness. I know that what I’m doing is for the future of my family. I just have to be patient.
ONE: How do you think you’ve improved since moving to Thailand?
JM: In a year here, I think it’s my wrestling that has really improved a lot. My striking has also been improved because there are a lot of great strikers in this gym. It’s really a big help.
Having Filipinos around me like Denice, Drex, and Fritz [Biagtan], they’ve made life easier for me here. They’ve been helping me, and we’ve been sharing techniques on how to improve moving forward.
I think this move could be the major turnaround of my career, I have truly improved a lot of things here at Marrok. Training here has been consistent. We have been focused on it. We’ve been doing nothing but training.
ONE: What are you expecting from Miao this time around? How do you ultimately expect this bout to play out?
JM: I know he’s been training really hard for me, but I can assure you that I’m working as hard as him. There will be adjustments in his training, and I know he’ll truly be dedicated to beat me.
When it comes to skills, I know I can adjust, for as long as my cardio hits [its] peak, I can hang with wherever he wants to go. I don’t feel that pressured. I think the toughest round will be the first round – not knowing his game plan and reading what he wants to do. I think the first round will be crucial.
I will do my best. I know this will be a fantastic bout. If he decides not to try and take me down and stay standing with me, I know it will be an epic bout. I really want to put on a really good performance. I just don’t want to come in there and show up without putting on a show.
ONE: How do you want to win against Miao?
JM: I just don’t want to win against Miao, I want to win convincingly. Even if it goes to the judges, I want it to be so convincing that it leaves no doubt in the eyes of the judges. I believe that my performance here will be the gauge on whether I deserve a shot at the guys on the top five.
I have to dominate. I don’t want to go to the judges with a close fight, so it’s either finish or be dominant should it go to the decision.
ONE: We have to know, will you be going for the flying knee again?
JM: I’ll still be going for that flying knee if given the chance. I’ll look for ways to time that again. [But also], I think my hands will also give him problems – especially the uppercut and my jab because I think I have the reach advantage over him.