The martial arts journey is different for everyone. For some, it is a mere chapter where they learn a few self-defense techniques and gain a new sense of confidence. As for others, it is a lifelong mission to better oneself.
ONE Lightweight World Championship challenger Ev Ting falls in the latter category. In fact, his journey has been an amalgamation of living his dream as an MMA superstar, all while making some valuable friendships and traveling across the globe.
That journey began in late 2009, shortly after the Malaysian hero relocated to a new suburb within New Zealand’s capital of Auckland. With his days of club football long gone, he sought an outlet to maintain his fitness and make some new mates in the process.
Being a diehard fan of MMA, “E.T.” settled on learning mixed martial arts and wanted to compete. Along with his friend, a judo black belt, Ting rolled through a few gyms in the area before arriving at the then newly-opened Auckland MMA.
“Auckland MMA [head coach] Hamish Robertson was the first to actually say, ‘Try our fundamental program first for 10 weeks, then we will see how you train over six months, and then we will get you a fight.’ That really gave me a goal, or a vision, so I committed myself to that,” the 27-year-old recalls.
“At the time, I did not have too much responsibility [in my life], so I made a huge commitment, I put in the work, and everything fell into place.”
True to his word, Robertson placed the dedicated Ting in an amateur bout, which the Malaysian promptly won. Over the next year, he added to his skill set in the gym and refined his fight style as an amateur.
By April 2011, he had forged ahead in his journey as a professional. He won his first three matches in New Zealand before traveling to Hong Kong to face Mark Striegl, already an established Asian MMA star at the time, in 2012. Although he experienced defeat, he made some powerful Malaysian connections at that event, and, soon, he was hired as a trainer at Klinch MMA in Kuala Lumpur.
“To be honest, I think I was on the lucky side,” “E.T.” admits. “When I first went to Malaysia, I was hired by a gym right away. That gym hosted me, gave me a salary, and introduced me to [people in the Malaysian MMA scene].”
Ting took full advantage of the opportunity. While he was re-connecting with his Malaysian roots and instructing a new generation of combat sports heroes at Klinch MMA, he traveled to the surrounding Southeast Asian countries to explore and further refine his talent.
“I bought a lot of one-way tickets to do travels. I feel traveling is part of the martial arts journey lifestyle, in which you have to learn outside your comfort zone.” he says. “I am very fortunate, and I set this goal for myself. You could say it was a big process of networking, and my fight resume helped me with that.”
The fight resume would get even bigger in 2014. ONE Championship was growing and expanding their presence deeper into Malaysia, and had signed a bevy of Malaysian talent on its fight cards, including Ting. Competing in ONE Championship would prove to change the young Malaysian’s life, as he went on to win seven out of eight bouts in the promotion, shooting him into MMA superstardom.
What’s more, it afforded opportunities of a different kind as well. In 2015, Ting was hired as an MMA coach at the newly-opened Saigon Sports Club in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where his martial arts journey, in a way, came full circle.
“My main goal was to develop the scene there, to build up some amateur fighters, and to give them a good, clean introduction into the sport,” he reflects, much in the same way he himself got started. “I felt like it was meant to be.”
Certainly, it was destiny. Now, as the Malaysian Hero prepares to meet Eduard “Landslide” Folayang for the ONE Lightweight World Championship on Friday Night, 21 April at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, he can not help but think of all the people who have helped bring him to this point.
All those people whom he sweat with, trained with, and even coached for the past seven years. To Ting, they are not necessarily students or training partners, but rather martial artists, and perhaps more importantly, friends.
“I had a lot of friends growing up, but if you are going to training five or six times a week and you put in hard work with certain people, you build a genuine bond with your training partners and they become your network,” he says. “I would not say they replace your old friends, but you see them more often. I feel the martial arts, or fitness in general, builds genuine relationships.”