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Reece McLaren Channeling UFO Style for Bibiano Fernandes Title Fight

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Reece McLaren ONE Championship

Reece McLaren knows all about seizing opportunities. His young ONE Championship career has been about nothing else. On Friday, the 25-year-old Australian walks into the Mall of Asia Arena looking to seize his biggest to date, when he faces Bibiano Fernandes for the ONE Championship bantamweight title.

The Brazilian champion is a formidable opponent. Fernandes last tasted defeat almost six years ago, racking up 11 straight wins in DREAM and ONE Championship. Clearly the top bantamweight plying his trade in Asian MMA, Fernandes is right in the mix at the top end of the world rankings too.

McLaren has forced himself into the title fight with a pair of upset wins. In December 2015, McLaren stepped in on short notice to hand Mark Striegl his second career defeat. Then McLaren wrecked Muin Gafurov’s undefeated record with a hard fought decision victory in April.

Two big opportunities presented to the man who grew up on Christmas Island, just South of Indonesia. Two opportunities grabbed with both hands. Now McLaren hopes that third time is the charm, bringing what he believes is the perfect, loose, game plan into the cage on Friday in Manila,

“He looks super strong. I’m pretty confident with my ability to stand back up and I think I showed that with Mark (Striegl)”, said McLaren, speaking on a recent episode of the MMA Latest Asia podcast. “So whatever happens, you know what I mean? Like, there’s no ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that.’ I’m just flowing with the go.

“I try not to have a set game plan, rather we have strategies. So we’ll implement, and then if that doesn’t work, then it’s sort of on the go, ‘ok that didn’t work so what else did we have?’, and we’ll usually find something that works and we’ll go from there.”

Familiarity through repetition has been practised not only in MMA, but in martial arts for centuries. Stepping into the cage with a rough, rather than definite, idea of how a fight is going to play out has worked for McLaren in the past, in particular in his previous outing against Muin Gafurov.

“This is the crazy thing. I fought (Gafurov) what was it, April? We’ve been seven months now since I’ve had anything lined up. So I’m feeling like my style is UFO… totally unknown. So I’m excited, I’m excited to get back in there.

“Just everything we’ve been doing for the last maybe, straight after the Muin fight. I knew exactly where I went wrong, I knew exactly what I needed to do. We went off, we worked, we reassessed, developed, and we’re just seeing now. I feel that I’m making good gains, so I can say all this crap but I’ve gotta go in and do it, which is why we do it.”

McLaren vs Gafurov ONE

McLaren attacking Gafurov in their April 2016 bout.

In April Gafurov dragged McLaren into uncomfortable territory, pushing a fast pace throughout and testing the reserve of the emerging Australian talent. It was a test that McLaren passed, and one which taught him valuable lessons ahead of his title fight with Fernandes.

“You watch the fight (with Gafurov) and it’s kind of like weird. You go through the emotions and you think that you’re not fit, but what it was, was we were just running at an inefficient pace. It was crazy how much happened in 15 minutes in that fight. It was something that I was trying to slow down, but with Muin’s pressure you just couldn’t. So I got sucked into the fight and luckily my recovery was good. I was fit, so recovery wasn’t much of a problem.

“I always try and set my pace. I believe if we can set my pace (against Fernandes) it’ll be a good night. If I get sucked into other people’s paces then it starts working to that, ‘if you’re running efficiently or not’. I think it’s gonna be a war of attrition.”

The lessons McLaren has learned in the ONE Championship cage set him in good stead for what is by far the biggest opportunity of his still-young career. The 25-year-old has no problem admitting that Bibiano Fernandes is a fighter he has looked up to, but one he can beat for the ONE Championship bantamweight title.

McLaren has come a long way in a short time as a pro. Christmas Island has a population of little more than 2,000 people. One of them has the chance to become the next big thing in Asian MMA, a fact not lost on McLaren as he prepares for the championship bout.

“I think with me, what you see is what you get. I’m just living the dream. I mean, I remember being on a small isolated island thinking to myself, ‘wow, look at these guys’. I looked up to Bibs man, he was the man back in 2008 when I think I found MMA. So I’ve been a fanboy since then. So now saying I’m gonna be competing against him is just crazy. I’m just enjoying the emotions, enjoying the moment.”

It is the third big opportunity that has been earned by the Australian so far, each sequentially more daunting than the last. While many will doubt McLaren’s chances on Friday, just as they did when he faced Striegl and Gafurov, the fighter truly believes he can dethrone Fernandes and become ONE’s new bantamweight champion.

“This is the time. The time’s now, it’s just perfect.”

ONE: Age of Domination takes place Friday, December 2, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. The event is headlined by the heavyweight title bout between Brandon Vera and Hideki Sekine, and will air live on pay-per-view around the world via ONEFC.com

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Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship

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28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.

Zhang Weili(Left) at Kunlun FC 12

Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.

Fightmatrix rankings as per 9/10/2017

While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.

If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.

While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.

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Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship

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After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.

The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.

Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.

Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.

“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen

ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017

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Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship

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Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.

“EssentiallyI see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.

As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.

“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”

“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”

4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.

“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”

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