Martial artists train their entire lives to become elite athletes and world champions, but only a select few possess true courage.
That involves entering the line of fire without a second thought, fearlessly facing what is deemed “the impossible” head-on, and being able to continue moving forward through pain, agony, and despair.
There have been some incredible displays of courage that have taken place throughout 2017, and as the year comes to a close, we recall four of the most inspiring.
Angela Lee Defends World Title Despite Sickness
In May, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee was preparing for her big title defense against Brazil’s Istela Nunes in Singapore, just a few weeks before ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES.
Days into her preparation, however, she was feeling rather sickly. The 21-year-old had difficulty breathing, was coughing frequently, and was even vomiting. She was taken to the hospital, and a series of tests concluded that she had a form of pneumonia.
Although the diagnosis sounded grim, Lee did not think twice about persisting with her upcoming tilt. The sickness certainly made training difficult, and the gruelling sessions were a nightmare. Her stress was at an all-time high, but she was determined to beat both Nunes and the pneumonia.
Lee made weight, but was still feeling ill on the night of the bout, despite clearing all her medicals. Driven by the heart of a champion, she she smiled and gave it her all for almost two rounds against a dangerous opponent in Nunes, a Muay Thai world champion.
She masterfully mixed her strikes with takedowns, aggressively worked submissions, and finally secured a bout-ending anaconda choke at 2:18 of the second round.
The champ could have easily called it in. ONE Championship’s Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong offered several times to cancel the bout, but Lee was determined. Like her “Unstoppable” moniker states, she would not let a sickness, let alone another human being, beat her down. She proved just that at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES.
Hisyam Samsudin Persists To Clinch Victory A Day After His Father Passed
For better or for worse, Hisyam “Zephyrus” Samsudin will never forget what happened this past September.
The Malaysian boxing champion arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, in anticipation of his clash against local favorite Jeremy “Predator” Meciaz at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY. His father also made the trip, and was excited to see his son compete inside the ONE cage.
Just 24 hours before the event, something absolutely terrible happened. The elder Samsudin was unexpectedly taken to a local hospital, and passed away in his sleep.
It was an incredibly traumatic experience for “Zephyrus,” and he understandably debated continuing with the match. No one would have blamed him for pulling out of the contest.
However, after his mom encouraged him, explaining it was his late father’s wish for him to compete, the Malaysian took to the cage. He fended off Meciaz’s frantic attacks and leg locks to deliver a first-round TKO.
Samsudin dedicated the win to his father, saying in his emotional post-victory speech, “I love you dad. This is for you.”
Aung La N Sang Fills In At The Last Minute To Face Vitaly Bigdash
Aung La N Sang rang in the new year with a surprise request.
Facing the undefeated Russian titleholder on short notice required tremendous daring, and Aung La N Sang was undeterred.
The “Burmese Python” did not think twice; he immediately answered the call, and started preparing as best he could for the incredible challenge.
Though he did not have the benefit of an eight-week training camp, he had stayed in fairly great shape in the offseason. He was training to compete in a jiu-jitsu competition, but ditched those plans to give the fans in Jakarta a memorable show.
He may not have gotten the victory that night, but Aung La N Sang took Bigdash a full five rounds, and kept things competitive en route to his first loss in ONE Championship.
He would get his revenge later that June at home in Yangon, when he captured the ONE Middleweight World Title in an epic rematch.
Timofey Nastukhin Returned From A Potentially Career-Ending Injury
Back in November 2016, Russia’s Timofey Nastyukhin looked to establish himself in the featherweight division by completing opposite former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR.
In the middle of their bout, however, he unfortunately broke his shin landing a kick on Boku. The match was called to a halt between rounds, and Nastyukhin was stretchered out of the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
While he was lying in a Singapore hospital, he debated whether or not he should continue with his martial arts career. He questioned whether all this sacrifice was worth trying to be the world’s best. Soon, he came to the conclusion that it was, and said to himself, “There is no turning back.”
Following nearly eight months’ worth of rehabilitation, he returned in August to meet former lightweight world title challenger Koji “The Commander” Ando at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS.
Nastyukhin practiced patience in the bout, perhaps a little tentative considering it was his first match back from surgery. What’s more, there would inevitably be a certain aversion to kicking with that same leg again, given what happened previously.
It took great courage to bet back in that cage, and Nastyukhin showed he had to overcome any adversity. he soon showed his trademark aggressive striking, tagging Ando whenever the opportunity presented itself, and left the cage with a unanimous decision victory. The Russian sensation was back.