She challenges Xiong Jing Nan for the inaugural flyweight belt at ONE: Kings of Courage on Saturday night in Jakarta. Teo brings a perfect professional record of 7-0 into the match-up, but nobody could have predicted she would one day challenge for a major MMA title.
“I was a nerd when I was a kid. I sang in the choir,” she said.
Teo graduated from an American university with a degree in psychology and originally took up Muay Thai as a means to stay fit. But she has emerged as a genuine contender in the flyweight division and is confident she will have too much for her Chinese opponent.
“She is pretty wild with her punches, so I feel a knockout or submission is possible,” said Teo.
This match-up is scheduled for five rounds and Teo says there are question marks over her opponent’s stamina.
“Most of her wins are in the first round by KO or TKO, so I feel her strongest rounds will be the first two because I do not think anyone can be that explosive for five rounds.”
The Singaporean feels that Xiong might fade as the fight progresses. But nerves could also be an issue for Teo, who admits that the prospect of a title shot might have had a negative effect on some of her recent performances.
“The possibility of getting a shot at the title added a little bit of stress. It affected my game plan and I felt like I was not aggressive enough with my strikes, but there is always something to improve on. Maybe it is me being a bit of a perfectionist.”
While Teo now has four ONE Championship wins to her name, Xiong only made her promotional debut last month. The Chinese fighter looked impressive against April Osenio, but her upcoming opponent saw at least one potential flaw.
“She was really dominant with her punches, but did not have good control after she took Osenio down, so I feel I have an advantage on the ground,” she said.
Initially Teo’s parents were taken aback by her decision to put psychology on hold in order to focus on martial arts. Singaporean society can be somewhat conventional and they were not overly enthusiastic about the prospect of their daughter competing in the cage.
Now that she stands on the cusp of becoming the first homegrown Singaporean fighter to win a ONE Championship belt, their attitude has thawed. In fact, Teo is happy to say they are now among her biggest fans.
“My parents are very supportive now. When I first started they wanted me to stop. But now they are checking on my training and preparation and are asking about my matches. It is really nice having the support of my parents. I am really happy about it.”
If the former choir girl can win on Saturday, then all of Singapore will be proud. Mixed martial arts might have been a surprising choice of career, but Teo has proved to be good at it and at ONE: Kings of Courage, she has the opportunity to become great.