For the past year, Ev Ting has been extremely vocal about his desire to fight for the ONE Lightweight World Championship. He was not simply making noise, however, he legitimately put some action behind his words.
The Malaysian has strung together an impressive four-fight win streak, and after extending defeating ex-title contender Kamal Shalorus at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS this past February, he was finally awarded the golden opportunity he craved for so long.
Now, the man known as “E.T.” will challenge Eduard Folayang for the ONE Lightweight World title at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, live on Friday Night, 21 April, from the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Ting not only has the chance to upset the immensely popular wushu master in front of his hometown crowd, but he also could become the first-ever Malaysian-born MMA World Champion.
In this interview, Ting speaks on his upcoming title bout with Folayang. He also talks about representing Malaysia, the nation’s growing MMA scene, and the win that started it all.
ONE: You are coming off a split decision victory over ex-title challenger Kamal Shalorus at February’s THRONE OF TIGERS card, and it was a very exciting fight. What was your game plan that night?
Ev Ting: I changed my style up a little bit for Kamal (Shalorus), but he came and tried to take my head off when he told everyone he was going to wrestle me. So the whole [plan] was to fake him a lot, to make him hesitate about shooting, and at the same time I was busy enough to tag him, but he did a really great job.
He did not expose anything for me to capitalize on. He literally just stood there, waited for me to attack, and countered with two or three big punch combos. He played a smart game to keep himself safe, but I was disappointed in myself more than anything.
I felt I could have really pushed a little bit more and gotten that finish, but he came in and surprised me as well. Even during fight week, with him missing weight and everything, the mind games started from there. It as a weird fight. Not your typical fight week.
It was a fairly close fight. When the result was being read, did you think the judges were going to award this fight to Kamal?
To be honest, I truly believed I had defended my streak and my performance that night because I controlled the center of the cage, I tagged him more, and I made him miss a lot. I felt like I did more than enough. At the same time, I was disappointed I did not get the finish.
This is a big cultural moment because you are the first Malaysian fighter ever to compete for a major MMA championship. How does it feel to represent Malaysia and possibly bring a title back to the country?
Being able to represent Malaysia, in general, is already a huge honor. I do not want to look ahead, but to be the first Malaysian fighter to bring the title back, I would feel like I accomplished something very big, but knowing me, I will not stop there.
I will always look for bigger and better achievements. In saying so, to have the support I have means a lot to me. I guess that is why we do this in the first place, to put on a show for these fans.
There has been incredible growth in Malaysia MMA over the years. Does this title shot signify the arrival of Malaysia MMA?
Absolutely, especially with the commitment of Tune Talk and MIMMA, they skyrocketed [MMA] and fast-tracked the growth here by hundreds of percentages. In New Zealand, for example, the fight scene, kickboxing especially, has been strong — meaning events every two to three weeks for the last 20 years.
MMA [has been] really popular in New Zealand in the past ten years, with Mark Hunt leading the way. However, I would say New Zealand is not even up to the exposure of Malaysia MMA yet simply because of how much more exposure there is in Malaysia with support of big brands and a lot of different people jumping on to help with that movement.
The growth in Malaysia is unmatchable, if anything, and for me to bring back a belt, I would not know what to expect.
Let’s talk about this upcoming tilt with Folayang. How do you envision this fight playing out?
I rate myself as a complete mixed martial artist, so when I say I fight, I go in there and throw overhands, I throw jabs, I take them down, I do submissions, I do everything. It is all a part of MMA.
As soon as I am sparring or I am on the mat, a switch flips and MMA comes as a complete package. So for this fight, I am going to try to overwhelm him, put him in an uncomfortable situation, and work off that.
You have a solid track record against martial artists from the Philippines. Clearly, when you walk into the Mall Of Asia Arena on 21 April, the fans will be cheering against you. Do you feel the crowd will play a role in this bout?
Not so much. At the end of the day, we are going to go in there and do our jobs. If anything out of the ordinary does happen, then I guess we will have to deal with it as it comes. but as of now, all I know is I have come a very long way, with respect to the Philippines and all their passionate fighters.
Maybe they are too passionate, I do not know, but with respect, I have come a long way, I put in a lot of hard work and I have beaten everyone ONE Championship has put in front of me. I never turned down a fight. I feel I have done everything I need to do to get to where I am now, so I am just going to go in there and do the best I can do. That is all I can do.