MMA: Sacrifice paying off for New Zealand's Ev Ting as ONE Championship title nears

Ting will face "Dagi" Arslanliev in Sinagpore on Friday.
Ting will face "Dagi" Arslanliev in Sinagpore on Friday. Photo credit: Supplied

The general perception within combat sports - and with good reason - is that to truly succeed as a fighter, you first need a foundation of relentless drive, a passion for hard work and a willingness to sacrifice.

Gyms are littered with tales of supremely talented prospects, who failed to fulfill their promise because they lack that special ingredient that propels individuals to a level above their peers.

The formula is tried and tested - definitely no secret - and one that's helped New Zealand's Ev Ting forge a career in professional fighting.

Ask Ting's longtime coach and mentor, Hamish Robertson from Auckland MMA, what he saw in his fighter in those early days that signaled his potential and he'll tell you it was nothing to do with any particular skill.

"He just put more work in than everyone else," Robertson told Newshub. "He'd always be there, no days off."

Robertson would arrange extra sessions for his fighters on their training off-days, which mainly consisted of hill sprints and road running.

"If it was rainy or cloudy, the majority of people wouldn't come, but Ev was always there. It's all paid off.

"Now, he sets the standard at the gym for what's expected."

With no experience, other than hours worth of Pride DVD viewing, Ting turned up, adamant he was going to make martial arts his career from the very outset. No free trials, no feeling-out process - just a very clear, albeit ambitious, goal in mind.

"Most people want to try it out and do it for fitness, and have one fight and take a lot of pictures. For me, it was 'how do I get there?'

"I knew exactly what I wanted. I set the big goals from day one."

A few fundamentals programmes, numerous amateur grappling competitions and countless late nights in the gym later, Ting has solidified himself as a contender on one of the planet's premier fight promotions in ONE Championship.

The largest sporting league in Asia, it boasts an ever-expanding roster of some of combat sports' most decorated strikers, across several  disciplines, including Muay Thai and kickboxing.

And while the likes of Israel Adesanya champion the new wave of New Zealand mixed martial arts in North America, Ting is helping open pathways for a host of Kiwis on the burgeoning Asian circuit.

MMA: Sacrifice paying off for New Zealand's Ev Ting as ONE Championship title nears
Photo credit: Supplied

The work ethic that powered him to reach those lofty goals was instilled in Ting from a young age, born out of necessity, after his parents decided to move their family to New Zealand from their native Malaysia with limited means.

Along with his siblings, he worked part-time jobs to help out with the family expenses, while they negotiated the culture shock that came with such a drastic change of scenery.

"When it was meal time, there might be one or two plates of food to feed seven of us. That was how we lived.

"We lived by having just enough to eat."

The value of those early life lessons can't be understated and Ting wouldn't have it any other way, as he considers his most immediate challenge - Turkey's Saygid "Dagi" Arslanaliev at ONE: Call to Greatness in Singapore on Friday.

Ting's bout is one of two quarter-finals on the night for ONE's lightweight Grand Prix, the winner of which will become number one contender for the belt.

Opponent Arslanaliev - a Dagestan native - is a serious proposition. All six of his wins in his young career have come via knockout or submission, but there's one area where Ting feels he has a significant advantage.

"Experience. I've been training hard, and I feel like I have more ring time and cage time.

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"Hopefully, I can drag him into the deep waters.

"He's dangerous, well rounded and explosive. He's very tough, but that's just like any opponent - they're all tough."

Dripping with sweat after taking to some pads in the suffocating Singapore heat, the progression taking place with Ting's mindset as fight night approaches is plain to see.

There's nothing new to be learned at this stage of proceedings, the gameplan's locked and loaded - it's time to take to the stage.

"I feel like I've put in all the work, so it's just a matter of unleashing it now and showcasing it to the world."

Nobody's been more privy to that work and the sacrifices Ting has made to get to this point than coach Robertson.

"He's been training 7-8 weeks for this, but nobody sees that," he says.

"Missing New Year and Christmas, not seeing his girlfriend, not being able to eat what he wants to, not hanging out with his friends... that's what people don't realise, how much they give up."

Not that any of that will matter, if Ting has his hand raised on Friday night.