In fact, the reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion views this World Title defense on Friday, 28 May, as a chance to display her courage on the global stage.
“[When you get matched up against a tough opponent], everyone will have the first reaction of fear in their body, but I think it’s better to turn this fear into motivation,” Xiong says about the main event clash that will headline ONE’s first all-female card.
“When I got the news that Michelle and I were going to fight each other, I thought that it would be more of a chance for me to improve. It’s a very good matchup.
“I like to fight with opponents at a higher level because, in the course of the fight, you can see something good and bad about yourself.”
“The Panda” should certainly be able to see good in herself. She’s been an unstoppable force at strawweight, amassing a 5-0 slate in the division with all those victories happening in World Title bouts.
Meanwhile, Nicolini is one of the most accomplished grapplers in history, with eight IBJJF World Championships to her credit, four IBJJF World Nogi Championships, and a coveted ADCC gold medal.
Given that back catalog, the Brazilian has written off any chance of Xiong competing with her on the ground. However, the Chinese superstar is not prepared to accept that.
“Michelle Nicolini said her ground technique is 10 times stronger than mine and I have no chance to win on the ground, but my first reaction to that was to keep smiling,” Xiong says.
“The smile shows that I know who I am, and I have confidence in myself. I want to remember what she said at this moment and then use my strength on the day of the fight to tell her, ‘You’re wrong in what you said.’”
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That does not mean “The Panda” is underestimating Nicolini’s incredible prowess on the mat.
Five of the Brazilian’s mixed martial arts victories have come via submission, and her lone decision win was a dominant grappling display over atomweight queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee. Because of all that, the BJJ superstar is the #2-ranked contender in the strawweight division.
Still, Xiong feels that she’ll be prepared for any eventuality thanks to her diligent fight camp at Evolve MMA alongside elite coaches and training partners.
“Of course, her ground technique is her advantage because it’s one weak point on me, relatively and technically speaking,” she offers.
“But of course, we have a plan, with training from my coach and some tips from people around me. Then we all have to work hard and positively to prepare for the fight, to learn more, and to try different training techniques.”
More than anything, though, the Beijing native believes that focusing on her own skill set is more important than worrying about what Nicolini plans to do.
“For me, preparation for each fight, whether it’s on the ground or standing, I’ll put 100 percent effort into it,” Xiong says.
“I won’t prepare by reading her strength and putting all my energy into defending it. I’m an athlete who’s going to prepare in an all-around way. What will happen in the match is unknown to us all, but what I know is I have to do my best in all of my preparation.
“No one knows what the result will be, but I’ll try my best and try to finish with my favorite KO as soon as possible.”
With her main event showdown approaching, Xiong is well-aware of her status as one of the promotion’s leading stars, and she takes the responsibility that comes with it very seriously.
That said, the Chinese hero vows to adapt, overcome, and inspire her fans despite facing an incredibly dangerous challenger.
“I’m not interested in confidence in my own techniques, but I have great confidence in Xiong Jing Nan, personally,” she offers.
“For me, having the World Championship belt in mixed martial arts is more important than my life, and I’ll take care of it with my life because other people can watch me in my fights.
“They can watch me when I encounter difficulty, see how I survive by perseverance, and go on to finish the fight. This can give them encouragement and help when they’re in trouble and when they walk through difficulties in their lives.”