MMA: Ev Ting poised for hometown glory at ONE Championship Kuala Lumpur

Ting and Abe square off.
Ting and Abe square off. Photo credit: Image - Supplied

Kiwi lightweight Ev Ting cut an extra-intense figure, as he stood toe-to-toe with opponent Daichi Abe for the first time, before their ONE Championship showdown in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

While some of his colleagues simply went through the motions in their respective square-offs, Ting took to the stage with clear purpose, hoping to sense some early weakness in his Japanese adversary.

"I could feel him wanting to blink a little," Ting told Newshub. "He was starting to chink a bit.

"I haven't found any holes yet, but I'm sure I'll chip away at him.

"He was a welterweight in the UFC, but now he actually looks lighter than me, so I'm excited to see how that goes."

That process culminates at Axiata Arena in two days time, where Ting will try to return to the win column, after a testing two-loss stretch in the promotion's most talent-rich division.

What better place to do that than his spiritual home in the Malaysian capital, the scene of some landmarks wins that helped establish him as a perennial title contender and where he remains undefeated.

Ting and Abe at the pre-fight open workout.
Ting and Abe at the pre-fight open workout. Photo credit: Image - Supplied

"I love Kuala Lumpur. It's my birth city and they always support me on fight night - I can definitely feel the energy."

And it's pretty clear the people love him back. From the feature on the front page of the Sunday paper to the fans queuing for a selfie after his open workout appearance - Auckland-raised Ting is a bona fide star in his native Malaysia.

"I'm very confident to make it 10-0 here, in my birthtown. That sort of thing might not mean much to some people, but it means everything to me."

Almost six years deep with ONE Championship - one of the most popular sporting leagues in Asia - the 29-year-old has forged a reputation as a fighter who competes with a relentless energy and all-round skill that has endeared him to many.

Originally, Ting admits he saw it as platform to boost his profile and gain some recognition in the US, but it's since evolved into much more than that - a place where he's spent most of his formative years, and developed as a human being and a fighter.

"ONE has been a huge part of my life and career. It has shaped me and made me find out who I really am.

"Through my failures and shortcomings, I'm just grateful for all of these experiences.

"If I wasn't competing I'd be a fatso in front of the computer. I'd be trying to make money off other people.

"At this stage, I've worked for everything I have."

Ting is less obsessive about the lure of a world championship these days and more about what he likes to call life's "higher purpose".

"It's more than just winning a gold belt, its more than just becoming a hero.

"It's about achieving goals, it's about motivating the youth, it's about giving back to the next generations.

"There's a lot more to fight for now."

But when it comes time to clock into work against Abe, Ting will be all business. Beating an opponent of Abe's pedigree goes a long way and the Auckland MMA product knows full well what having his hand raised on Friday will mean.

"He's dangerous all-round, he's got a few knockouts on his resume. My goal is just to prove that I'm better everywhere.

"From the first second, I'm going to be in his face. I feel like I'm just that much faster, stronger and more evolved than him.

"My gameplan is to destroy him in the first minute. I'll be surprised if he gets out of the first round."