ONE FC continues to expand at a remarkable rate with Taiwan the latest country on the list and the main attraction for the local fans at Friday night’s card in Taipei will be heavyweight Paul Cheng.
It will be an emotional homecoming for Cheng, who is fighting for the first time in the city where he was born and raised. After years competing in Canada the 35-year-old is looking forwards to having the crowd firmly behind him for once at ONE FC: War of Dragons.
“I grew up about ten minutes from the arena, you can’t get closer to home than that and fighting there is like a dream come true. Playing sports and fighting in North America I always felt like the visitor or opponent so this will be the first time I have home field advantage.”
The major disadvantage of being based in Canada is that Cheng had to take a break from training to make the round trip to Taiwan recently just to do some pre-fight promotional work. It’s a long journey, but he at least got a chance to acclimatize.
“It was hard and it definitely interrupted training camp a bit with the jet lag, but at least I got used to the conditions and heat,” he said.
Cheng’s sheer size – he’s a former defensive tackle in the CFL – immediately makes him stand out from the other Taiwanese fighters on the ONE FC roster and he has been the main object of attention for the local media in the build-up to Friday night’s event.
“I had a great reaction from the media and I got some great practice with my Mandarin at Fox Sports, everyone is really excited for fight week. There’s a little bit more pressure because my mom, my sister and my girlfriend are gonna be watching, but I like pressure.”
The man charged with the task of spoiling Cheng’s homecoming is Egyptian Mahmoud Hassan, but the local fighter is confident he has the tools required to send the fans home happy.
“Hassan is a big strong guy with good power in his punches, but I believe my overall MMA game is better than his. From what I have seen he is a stand-up guy lacking ground, but I could be wrong, we will see on fight day.”
After winning his first ONE FC fight, Cheng is very much in the mix for a heavyweight title shot. A second successive victory under the banner of Asia’s biggest MMA promotion could make him the leading contender, but he is content to be patient and bide his time.
“A win would take me a step closer to the title, but again there are better guys and I believe I should fight at least one more time before a title shot. I might be older, but I’m very young in the sport and I believe my time is now.”
The pressure is on Cheng to put on an eye-catching performance in front of fans who might not be familiar with MMA and are probably watching heavyweights fight for the first time. He wants to give a good account of himself and the sport.
“I want to show the fans in Taiwan and the world my evolving MMA game. I’ve made significant progress in my striking and ground game and I hope to show that on July 11.”
ONE FC: War of Dragons is set for the NTU Sports Arena in Taiwan on Friday night and will be screened all over Asia by Star Sports and by a number of different broadcasters worldwide and purchased for 9.99 USD on the ONE FC website.
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