ONE Championship: Kiwi-Malaysian fighter Ev Ting eyes likely interim title shot with win over Ariel Sexton

Ting is coming off a big win over Japan's Nobutatsu Suzuki.
Ting is coming off a big win over Japan's Nobutatsu Suzuki. Photo credit: Supplied

There will be more than just another tick in the win column on the line when Kiwi-Malaysian MMA fighter Ev Ting takes on Ariel Sexton at ONE Championship: Quest for Gold in Yangon on Saturday morning (NZT).

It's understood the winner of the bout will earn a share of a shot at a new interim lightweight title with whoever emerges from the contest between rising Singaporean Amir Khan and Timofey Nastyukhin.

The division has essentially been tied up by current champion Martin Nguyen, who's now looking to add the bantamweight belt to his featherweight title in a bid to become a three-division king.

As impressive a feat as it is, it's created somewhat of a traffic jam for those looking to work their way into the title picture, and it's unclear exactly when "The Situ—Asian" will move back to 155lb to defend his lightweight strap.

It's not a concept Ting wholeheartedly endorses, but he does understand the motives behind it.

"I don't want to comment too much on the political side of things but it's obviously devaluing the division a little bit," he told Newshub.

"There's some serious contenders this division and it does take a bit away from the fighters who have been going against top guys…it does put a stress on things.

"However it is a common trend at the moment and it's the entertainment business at the end of the day, so I guess they're just trying new methods to engage with their audience."

Evolve MMA's Khan made no secret of the fact that he was eager for a bout against the Kiwi following his win over Adrian Pang in November, and although he's clearly focused on the immediate challenge at hand, Ting can't help but ponder a potential battle with the Singaporean.

"I actually enjoy it when people call me out, it helps draw more attention to me as well, and I believe that’s a great fight.

"If it did go down it'd be a stand-up war and a great display of styles. He's been working with his Thai guys and sharpening himself, and I like to mix it up and take people to places that they’ve never been."

As for now, Ting has Costa Rica's Sexton locked in his sights. The 36-year-old is in the midst of a three-fight win streak - which includes a win over ex-UFC fighter Roger Huerta - but hasn't fought in almost two years.

Ting on his way to a TKO win over Suzuki.
Ting on his way to a TKO win over Suzuki. Photo credit: Getty

"E.T" is coming off a stellar performance of his own with a TKO win over Nobutatsu Suzuki in August. It was a fight he learned plenty from, coming to a realisation as to what he's truly capable of and extent of development which still remains within him.

"After the last fight I really had to re-evaluate the whole situation and my game.  The sport is evolving so fast that if you don’t right, you get left."

"I think I'm now just discovering myself as a complete athlete. In the past I've just focused on limited aspects of the game but now it's more so being in the moment, being adaptive and capitalising as soon as possible. Eliminating errors and being efficient."

The 28-year-old seems to have transitioned to a new level of his professional career, an evolution which reflects that of MMA in New Zealand. Old friends Dan Hooker and Israel Adesanya have helped bring the sport to the forefront of the nation's sporting conscious, and Ting admits he can't help but be inspired.

"Those guys are my homies. We used to train together in warehouse many years ago as a team in the mornings and we'd be pushing each other and letting each other know that there's a bigger world out there," Ting says proudly. "It's just a blessing to see it all flourishing, we just need to keep winning and keep getting our names out there."

"Much respect to [Hooker] and [Adesanya] for really creating their own styles and being themselves, I think that’s the main thing. When anyone travels outside of NZ we always try to rep ourselves the best we can and we couldn’t have better role models than those guys."

As for how things play out in the Myanmar capital on Friday night, the Auckland MMA fighter believes he's well prepared for anything submission specialist can throw at him after a gruelling training camp in Bali.

"I've focused a lot on my wrestling and jiu-jitsu to try to neutralise and simulate a lot of what's going to happen in the fight. But I always take pride in the NZ striking so I hope to display some of that.

"It would be ideal to put on a performance like Israel [Adesanya's]."

The official word: it's a TKO within two rounds. 


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