For Eddie Ng, March 14 will be a moment of truth. After dominating some of the top fighters in the region he is stepping up to take on a seasoned opponent at ONE FC: War of Nations in the shape of UFC and WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus.
The two lightweights will meet in Kuala Lumpur on ONE FC’s first card of 2014 and Ng knows that he will have to be at his very best to claim ONE FC win number five.
“The two fighters who I beat recently, Peter Davis and Arnaud Lepont, both have a lot of wins on their record. So they were definitely not easy fights, but I think if you look at the caliber of fighters Shalorus has faced in his career and his level of experience, I think it is fair to say he is the best opponent I have been up against so far,” he said.
The Iranian won a unanimous decision when he was thrown in with Eduard Folayang on his ONE FC debut and Ng, who watched that fight, is expecting him to be even sharper when they meet in Malaysia.
“His wrestling is very strong and he used it to good effect against Folayang, but it is always difficult when you fight for a new organization and in a new country for the first time, especially when you have been out for a long time like Shalorus had going into that fight. I believe he will be even more dangerous now that he has that experience of having spent 15 minutes fighting a high-level opponent in the ONE FC cage,” he said.
Ironically, given that Ng has fought four times for Asia’s biggest MMA organization, he has actually spent less time inside the ONE FC cage than Shalorus. The Hong Konger’s fights have lasted a total of 8:53, but he rejects the theory that this makes him inexperienced.
“If I had won a decision in all of my fights then I would be more experienced, but people would be criticizing me for being boring or not being able to finish fights. I get the best training possible at Evolve MMA in Singapore and the team there wouldn’t let me go into a fight in anything other than fantastic shape. So if I have to go the full three rounds with Shalorus then I will be ready, but fortunately I have been able to finish all my ONE FC opponents so far and hopefully I can continue to do that,” he said.
Shalorus comes from a strong wrestling background and the ability to repeatedly take Folayang down was key to his victory at ONE FC: Rise to Power. Ng says that this is something he is already preparing for.
“The trainers at Evolve MMA have huge knowledge and experience and I am fortunate to be able to work every day with legendary world champions in boxing, Muay Thai and BJJ. Olympian Heath Sims and NCAA division one competitor Jake Butler have been helping me with my wrestling and takedown defense and it gives me great confidence to know that, while Shalorus is an experienced wrestler, I have teammates who have been there and seen it all before,” he said.
The ONE FC 155-pound title is currently the property of Ng’s Evolve MMA teammate Shinya Aoki and there is no prospect of the two ever meeting. That means that, even if he impresses against Shalorus, the 27-year-old won’t be challenging for the belt straightaway, but he says he is happy to bide his time.
“Shinya is not just my teammate, he is also my friend, and there is no way we would ever fight each other, but he has said that eventually he wants to move down to featherweight and if that happens and ONE FC thinks I deserve a title shot, I would be honored to fight for the belt. Shinya is at a completely different stage of his career to me. He is a few years older and much more experienced in MMA terms. It is a privilege to be able to train with him and learn from him and he is a great champion,” he said.
One of Ng’s Evolve MMA teammates, Rafael dos Anjos, holds a victory over Shalorus, but he doesn’t see any significance in this statistic.
“Every fight is different and just because a fighter loses to an opponent on a given day does not mean they would lose every time. Rafael dos Anjos is one of the best lightweights in the world and is close to a UFC title shot, if he gives me some advice on fighting Shalorus, I would be happy to take it, but when you are training with the best fighters in the world in your division you always listen to what they say,” he said.
When Ng moved to Singapore to join Evolve MMA and signed with ONE FC he was a relatively unknown lightweight with a 3-1 record. He has not just extended his winning streak to five fights since then, he has also established himself as one of the most recognizable fighters in the region and says he is still surprised at how much has happened in the last two years.
“It’s amazing. I am fighting for one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world and training at the best camp in Asia alongside trainers and fighters I used to watch on TV. I am living my dream and I am so grateful to both Victor Cui and Chatri Sityodtong for giving me these opportunities.”
So far Ng has seized this opportunity in emphatic and, more often than not, dramatic style. He has finished all four ONE FC opponents, but knows that he faces a serious challenge if he wants to maintain this record against Shalorus.
“It’s going to be a tough fight, but I believe that to improve as a martial artist it is necessary to constantly challenge yourself and going in with such an experienced fighter is definitely a challenge.”
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