MMA: NZ's Ev Ting eyes redemption at ONE Championship Malaysia

Ting has won three of his last five fights.
Ting has won three of his last five fights. Photo credit: Stephen Foote

Kiwi-Malaysian ONE Championship lightweight Ev Ting will enter unfamiliar territory, when he squares off with Daichi Abe at ONE: Masters of Destiny at Kuala Lumpur next month.

That sounds an odd predicament, when you consider the support and comforts on offer in your city of birth.  

But the really foreign concept for Ting lies in his recent record - consecutive losses for the first time in his eight-year professional career.

When you consider the quality of his opponents - rising Turkish assassin 'Dagi' Arslanaliev and submission genius Shinya Aoki, the cream of ONE’s most talented division - the situation is far from dire.

But a loss is a loss and Ting admits that - at least in the immediate aftermath of those defeats - he found himself doing some deep soul-searching.

"It makes you question everything," Ting told Newshub. "Your team, your training... you question everything."

"But that's a short-term emotional reaction. In the long term, this is just part of the journey and it's about the climb back up."

That ascent begins at the Axiata Arena on July 12, when Ting squares off with ex-UFC Japanese fighter Abe, a capable striker with a formidable judo foundation.

"He's very dangerous, but it’s a good name to beat to climb my way back up there. I'm pretty excited to test my skills and show everyone what's up."

Kiwi fights fans may be familiar with Abe as the man who went a bloody three rounds with Hamilton's Luke 'The Jedi' Jumeau in a unanimous decision loss at UFC 221 in February 2018 and his situation almost mirrors that of Ting's.

"We're both pretty well rounded. We're both on a redemption run.

"It's pretty much who's put in more work and who's hungrier, who's making more sacrifices right now.

"I feel like I'm ahead there and I'm going to showcase that I'm better than him in every aspect of the game."

That bout was at Abe's regular class of welterweight and he'll making the step down to lightweight to become one of the taller opponents Ting's encountered.

"I'm not worried about that. I'm training with heavyweights every day and I can pick them up. "It's not about the size, it's about showing up on the day with the right game plan and putting him away as efficiently as possible.

"The goal is to mix it up - to strike, wrestle, grapple - and find a flaw or a chink in his armour… then just explode and execute."

MMA: NZ's Ev Ting eyes redemption at ONE Championship Malaysia
Photo credit: Supplied

The 29-year-old is already deep into training camp with both his long-time team at Auckland MMA - spearheaded by head coach Hamish Robertson, Van Do, and David Eagle - and UFC lightweight Dan Hooker's The Combat Academy, where he's undergoing strength and conditioning programme with Said Salem and Makoto Endo.

While his sparring partners have borne the brunt of his frustrations, Ting has taken the kind of philosophical approach to pressure that you'd expect from someone whose keel tends to remain even at most times, inside and outside the cage.

It's all about perspective, he says.

"Pressure is when you’re late on rent. What's done is done.

"Getting choked out in front of two billion potential viewers is an absolute nightmare for some people, but for me, it's just another day in the office.

"We all know that life is a rollercoaster and some people scream at the scary parts, whereas others embrace it.

"But at the end of the rollercoaster everyone's happy right? I feel like it's only up from here.

"It’s a whole another chapter now, a whole new journey."

Galvanised by defeat, Ting shapes to be stronger than ever when he takes to the stage in the Malaysian capital. A perennial contender in one of the toughest rosters in combat sports, he's only ever one or two wins away from being in the frame for a shot at the belt and his bid for a second crack at the title begins against Abe.

That said, for a martial arts purist like Ting, it's not all about silverware.

"While the belt is very nice and shiny, it's not the be-all and end-all for a real martial artist. The impact of a real martial artist is every night in the gym, making people smile and beating people up at the same time.

"Showing up for training every day and improving yourself, making good decisions every day and being a good person.

The destination remains the same, but Ting is savouring every moment of the journey.

"I feel like the contest that you have with yourself, with your team, going into a camp… all these little adventures you have with teammates is much more important. They're the small moments that make it all worthwhile.

"You have to always be in this primal, pure mindset - it's just survival instinct.

"I'm trying to constantly improve and make good decisions every moment I get."