This week the news broke that Martin Nguyen vacated his ONE Championship lightweight belt. No one would have been more interested by this development than Ev Ting, who is booked to face Shinya Aoki in title eliminator in Bangkok on Saturday.
The winner was supposed to face champion Nguyen in Tokyo next March. But that fight won’t be happening and Ting thinks that Saturday’s ONE: Kingdom of Heroes scrap should have the vacant belt on the line.
“Me and Shinya should be it,” he said about the fight for the vacant title.
Given that there are already two title fights on Saturday’s card, including the 12-round WBC super flyweight title main event, it seems unlikely that ONE Championship would add another. But while Ting won’t be fighting Nguyen any time soon, he still has plenty of respect for the Australian.
“Martin has made a champion decision to (vacate the belt), he is always welcome back to gain it back. Have always respected the champ’s legacy on keeping active. Regardless, the best is yet to come for the division and us the athletes.”
Ting had his sights firmly set on a shot at Nguyen after three straight wins. Nobutatsu Suzuki, Ariel Sexton, and Koji Ando are impressive scalps, but the Malaysian born lightweight knows that a win over Aoki would be his biggest yet.
“I’m honored to take on a true legend, and in many ways, this is a bigger fight for me (than Nguyen), so I’m super excited. I’m putting in the work and I’m building up my body to peak on fight night again. Shinya’s credentials and his name speak for themselves.”
Aoki is riding a two-fight winning streak of his own and there’s no real secret to the success of the former Dream and ONE Championship titleholder. He is a submission specialist and Ting knows exactly what sort of situations he is likely to find himself in against the 50-fight veteran.
“There’s no secret he is going to work his grappling, and I’m going to defend it. If it does go to the ground, I’m training very smartly to embrace the chaos and hopefully take him to deeper waters than he’s been to on the ground.”
“If I was to face him in a grappling match right now, I would put my whole bank account on the line, because that’s how confident I am in my training, my team, my coaches, and all the work that I’ve put into this training camp. I have nothing to fear from Shinya.”
Ting’s last two wins have come inside the distance and he’s concerned that a cautious approach might be undermining his title credentials.
“I’m facing all these veterans in the game, but I’m not getting any of the shiny things to show for it. I’m just going to try to express myself a little bit more.”
However, Saturday night’s fight is arguably the biggest of Ting’s career. He might have fought for the title once before, dropping a narrow decision to Eduard Folayang, but he has never faced a fighter with such an impressive collection of belts and all round accomplishments at Aoki.
The stakes are high and Ting will probably think twice before throwing all caution to the wind.
“I’ve tried to be an exciting fighter, but sometimes it’s just better to be calculated and smart, and take care of the task at hand.”
A shot at the vacant belt surely awaits the winner, with Tokyo the likely destination. It’s an opportunity that would be ideal for Aoki, but the 29-year-old Malaysian would love nothing more than to steal his opponent’s thunder and secure a second crack at the silverware.