When he enters the Circle at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the 36-year-old Indonesian will be fighting for more than just his own glory.
His students and compatriots will be taking inspiration from this bantamweight mixed martial arts battle, and that’s why the veteran will give everything he has in search of a victory.
“This will be the first time I have competed since establishing the Terminator Top Team. My students need to see me fight to get inspired. I need this win to see where I stand in the bantamweight division,” he says.
“I want to motivate my students through my performance. I want them to understand that the time we spend on training won’t go to waste.
“Apart from that, financially I need this win to proliferate MMA in my region. In Central Java province, this sport is not as big as the others, so I need this win to get support.”
Tial Thang is entering with plenty of hype as the protege of ONE superstar Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang. The Myanmar icon took “The Dragon Leg” under his wing and has mentored him at Sanford MMA in the USA.
For his part, “The Terminator” does not think that relationship is a big deal, and he is sizing up Tial Thang on his own merits. Still, he’s eager to prove that he can hang with opponents from elite gyms around the world.
“It could be [that people know Tial Thang through Aung La N Sang], but he wouldn’t be where he is now if he was not that good,” Sunoto says.
“What motivates me the most is the fact that he trains in the US with some of the big names in MMA. I think a victory will elevate my name. I want to prove that I can beat someone from a reputable gym.”
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After doing his research, “The Terminator” sees that his 28-year-old opponent has some effective elements in his arsenal.
But with 19 career bouts on his resume compared to the Myanmar athlete’s four, Sunoto believes he owns the upper hand.
“He has many advantages. He came from wrestling, but he has good striking too,” the Indonesian offers.
“I have a reach advantage, and I am more experienced in MMA – these are two things that I am better at. Experience is key in MMA.
“You can’t lie about it, and I think, despite his strong background in traditional wrestling, he lacks experience in MMA. So when he faced someone with more experience [in his last bout against Song Min Jong], he seemed confused. His weaknesses got exposed.”
Tial Thang’s wrestling has certainly been his biggest asset in ONE so far, but Sunoto has seen it all against some of the division’s top names.
Now in his mid-30s, he’s aware that time is ticking on his competitive career, and he wants to use any remaining opportunities to impress fans and leave an imprint on the next generation back home.
“I am not that young anymore, but I am still competing at the highest level. I want to pull the trigger,” Sunoto says.
“I am here to entertain the audience, and my students will be watching too so I need to give them examples of warrior spirit.”
After rounding out his training camp at Bali MMA, “The Terminator” feels like he can better Tial Thang wherever their fight goes, and he’s even calling his shot in “The Lion City.”
“I am ready for him in any area,” Sunoto adds.
“In my mind, I can see myself winning with a middle kick to the body or a rear-naked choke in round two. Since he’s an orthodox fighter, I’ll try to be a southpaw so my kick can directly hit his abdomen.”