Reece “Lightning” McLaren (11-5) will never turn down a bout, even if that means gambling with a guaranteed shot at the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
The Australian was staring down a title opportunity earlier this year, but when an injury forced then-reigning champion, Adriano Moraes, to withdraw from their headlining tilt at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in March, he was given a choice.
“[ONE Championship] basically asked if I wanted to wait or take another bout,” the 26-year-old from Australia’s Gold Coast says.
“I am not really keen on waiting around for anything, so I just took one. If an opponent changes, then an opponent changes.
“I just want to keep testing myself. I am so competitive. It is like, do you want to compete or not? Of course, I want to compete. Let’s do this, whenever.”
McLaren was instead booked against Malaysian hero Gianni Subba in an official Flyweight World Title eliminator.
In front of his opponent’s home crowd in Kuala Lumpur, “Lightning” rose to the occasion and submitted the local favorite via arm-triangle choke in the second round.
Following that victory, the Aussie went right back to knocking on the door of title contention. However, before he could claim his championship opportunity, the ONE Flyweight World Title situation had to be settled.
That was eventually sorted out at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER in June, when interim titleholder Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio pulled off a gutsy split decision to defeat Moraes, and become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion.
Once again, McLaren could have sat on the sidelines and waited to challenge the winner of that unification bout later this year.
However, the Aussie wants to actively compete against the best martial artists in the world – whether gold is on the line or not.
“I do not really want to wait around,” he explains.
“The way I see it is – if you are feeling like you are the champ, then you should be able to beat anyone on any given day.
“My goal is to become the champ, and if I want to be the champ, then I have to be able to step up at any time and beat anyone. Champions train, losers complain.”
To show he is willing to take on anyone, McLaren will face DEEP Flyweight Champion Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada (19-8-2, 1 NC) at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS, live from China’s Guangzhou Tianhe Gymnasium on Saturday, 7 July.
Wada is a newcomer to ONE Championship, but he actually has more wins than “Lightning” has bouts in his career. Additionally, the 29-year-old Tokyo, Japan resident is riding a phenomenal eight-bout win streak.
McLaren is well aware of his opponent’s ability, which is why he refuses to take him lightly.
“He has had a lot of fights and he has a lot of experience. He has some awkward looking stand-up, and I think he has a really good ground game,” the Australian explains.
“It is a really good match, and I think it is a really dangerous match. I am always excited for a challenge. Whoever the name, I am happy to buckle in, and get set and go.”
While McLaren can never guarantee how any contest is going to play out, the hard-working athlete is confident his skills will match up against Wada.
The Aussie has brilliantly showcased his stand-up game since making his ONE debut in December 2015, and his BJJ black belt and grappling expertise have made him a colossal threat to rival flyweights.
Altogether, that combination of skills has led to an 81 percent finishing rate, and he is going to try to stop Wada and elevate that number.
“I am always in there to look for, and find, the finish,” he says. “It is the same thing here. I will be in there doing my thing, and if a finish presents itself, I will take it, for sure.”
Should McLaren defeat Wada, then he hopes to finally get his shot at the belt.
With the ONE Flyweight World Championship situation finally at rest, “Lightning” is ready for his crack at the undisputed flyweight king.
This weekend presents a chance to prove that one more time.
“I am super confident in my skills. I just have to get through this one and hopefully, I will finally get to fight for that gold.”
Guangzhou | 7 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast