Heroes have some of the most inspiring comeback stories the world has ever heard. For the superstars of ONE Championship, that holds true, too.
In fact, many of the martial artists competing at the upcoming ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES event had previously fallen to huge obstacles, and gotten right back up to claim victory, whether it is in the cage or life in general.
As these five athletes prepare to step inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 26 May, for a night of unforgettable action, we look back on some of their biggest comebacks.
#1 Angela Lee’s Championship Win After Mei Yamaguchi’s Devastating Right Cross
Just a year ago, “Unstoppable” Angela Lee was in the midst of a heated five-round battle with Mei Yamaguchi for the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship. In the main event of ONE: ASCENT TO POWER in May 2015, the Singaporean was getting the better of the veteran Yamaguchi.
Five seconds into the third round, however, the Japanese warrior baited Lee with a left hook before flooring her with a massive right cross. Yamaguchi immediately followed that up with ground and pound strikes, eventually mounting Lee and locking in an armbar.
Miraculously, the stunned Lee was able to maintain her composure, reversed positions, and fought back with a vengeance to earn a decision victory and claim the belt. With the win, Lee became the youngest-ever world champion in mixed martial arts history.
#2 Ben Askren’s International Stardom Following Olympic Loss
Ben Askren was one of the premier grapplers in the mid-2000s. He held an incredible 153-7 collegiate record, was a four-time All-American, and won the NCAA Division I Title on two occasions.
“Funky” even made the 2008 U.S. Olympic squad, but while competing in the Beijing Olympics, he lost his very first match. Although he won his second bout, he was still eliminated from the field.
It was a bitter pill for Askren to swallow, but he then decided to redirect that same, relentless passion for wrestling to mixed martial arts and see what would become of it. As history would show, he decimated the competition en route to a perfect 15-0 record, and captured the ONE Welterweight World Championship.
#3 Istela Nunes Going From Having Almost Nothing To Becoming A World Title Challenger
Istela Nunes always had the hunger to become a martial arts champion. The Brazilian first learned capoeira when she was 5 years old, and moved on to Muay Thai when she was 10.
She was hooked on the latter, eventually becoming a two-time Muay Thai World Champion, and earned the distinction of being the first Brazilian woman to become a world champion in Thailand.
All of that came at a price – or Nunes, that included many countless nights sleeping on the mats and far away from her family. It also meant feeling literally hungry quite often, as she typically only could afford only one meal a day.
Those sacrifices paid off, however, as now she is challenging Lee in the main event of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, where she will try to add the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship to her list of accomplishments.
#4 Agilan Thani Defeating Bullying And Obesity To Become An Elite Contender
Most battles happen inside the cage, but for Malaysia’s Agilan Thani, his biggest war was a mental and physical one. The 21-year-old was the victim of childhood bullying and verbal abuse due to his weight, which at one point was a staggering 139kg.
However, he later found inspiration from martial arts movies to pursue training himself. Once he began his martial arts journey, he was instantly hooked, and the pounds melted away. He also discovered his prodigious talent, going on to become an elite athlete who is undefeated in both amateur and professional mixed martial arts, and will now challenge for Ben Askren’s ONE Welterweight World Championship.
#5 Amir Khan Surviving Vaughn Donayre’s Kimura To Win By Submission
He may only be 22 years old, but Amir Khan has certainly demonstrated his ability to overcome adversity. The young Singaporean’s skills were put to the test last November, when he faced Vaughn “The Spawn” Donayre in front of his countrymen at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR. However, instead of trading shots with his rival, Khan opted to take it to the ground. He played into Donayre’s strength, and at first, it seemed like a good move.
Khan performed well, but in the second round, Donayre put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to good use, and had a kimura shoulder lock seemingly locked in to put Khan away. The Singaporean then showed true warrior spirit by refusing to tap, and somehow even reversed positions. The next round, Khan finished Donayre with a rear-naked choke to pull off the perfect comeback.
This article is brought to you by THE MUMMY, in theatres June 2017. View the official trailer here.