It is over four years since ONE Championship’s inaugural show in Singapore, but that time must seem like an eternity to Benedict Ang. Since 2011, the 19-year-old has gone from being a casual MMA fan to becoming one of the country’s most touted young prospects.
From 2013 to 2014, Ang amassed a 6-0 amateur record, capturing a belt in the process. This brought him to the attention of ONE Championship matchmakers, who handed him a pro debut at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last May.
Ang beat an experienced Pakistani opponent by unanimous decision and says fighting in a stadium where he had sat cageside as a fan so many times was a surreal experience.
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“It was unbelievable. I have been there as a fan on many occasions, but it’s nothing compared to having your home crowd cheer you on to victory. The passionate crowd and the atmosphere is definitely heart warming.”
Ang’s reward for that win is a huge step up in competition, as he is slated to face Yohan Legowo, a veteran of ten fights, at ONE: Pride of Lions on Friday night. He will definitely be an underdog against the experienced Indonesian, but feels he has a point to prove in only his second pro fight.
“It feels like a big challenge, but one that I can’t wait to conquer. I am here to prove myself to show that with dedication hard work and the right team nobody can stand in my way.”
Ang is the second youngest member of the fight team at Evolve MMA, where he is training alongside the likes of Ben Askren and Shinya Aoki. He believes this will give him the edge over an opponent that boasts a 7-3 record and made his debut in 2002.
“It’s huge step up, but I train with the best. I learn from the best. Here at Evolve MMA, I’m surrounded by some of the very best world champions on the planet, and I will be ready for him anywhere the fight goes.”
Ang successfully made the transition from competing in the amateur leagues to fighting for Asia’s biggest MMA promotion. So far in his career, he’s won seven fights out of seven, but admits that appearing on a ONE Championship show was unlike anything he had ever experienced previously.
“It felt like a major jump. I had been competing as an amateur for about two years, and when I turn pro, I found it a very big step, but one that I was ready for.”
On his pro debut, Ang went the distance with Pakistan’s Waqar Umar. It means he has already spent 15 minutes inside the ONE Championship cage and, even if that wasn’t the plan pre fight, he feels he learned a lot.
“I have mixed feelings about it because I definitely hoped to finish the fight rather than let it go to the judges, but having gone three rounds in your debut is surely a good experience that will make me even more comfortable the next time I step into the cage.”
His opponent on Nov. 13 has experience in Muay Thai and Sanda, as well as being a purple belt in BJJ, but Ang says he has been looking to improve his striking skills.
“I have been working my stand-up a lot with Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Chaowalith Jockey Gym, and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, and my overall game with Eddie Ng, Bruno Pucci, Heath Sims, and Amir Khan.”
Both Khan and Dejdamrong will be in action at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, while Ng was scheduled to fight, but his opponent pulled out. Ang’s Evolve MMA teammates Ben Askren and Angela Lee both have bouts booked on the same card and he says it helps to have so many people in the camp working towards the same date.
“We all push and motivate each other, we bring out the best in each other every single day and I can’t wait to see my teammates shine on fight night.”
Ang is at an age where fighters often demonstrate that they can make dramatic improvements in comparatively short periods of time. Only six months have elapsed since his successful ONE Championship debut, but that is a long time in the career span of a fighter who only began competing in the amateur ranks in 2013.
He will need to raise his game if he wants to beat Legowo and Ang believes he has improved significantly since the day he made his pro debut six months ago.
“I have definitely gotten better since my last fight. When you’re at an environment like Evolve MMA and you put in your heart and soul you can only get better.”
With Singapore emerging as the epicenter of Asian MMA, the race is on to find a local fighter good enough to reach the upper echelons of the sport. Of the current crop, Ang looks like perhaps the most likely to succeed, but how he fares against such a seasoned opponent will tell us a lot about his potential and prospects.
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