It remains to be seen whether Angela Lee will be in attendance at ONE: Beyond the Horizon this weekend, but the presence of the current atomweight champion will undoubtedly be felt by Xiong Jing Nan as she prepares to defend her strawweight title for the second time, and potentially book a headline slot in Singapore.
Lee will be moving up in weight to challenge for the strawweight belt in a fight that has been penciled in for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Nov. 9. It is a match-up that Xiong is desperate to be involved in and the 30-year-old admits the prospect of facing ONE Championship’s only other female champion is on her mind.
“She is an opponent I really respect. I believe we could learn from each other, and I hope we will be facing each other in the near future.”
First up for Xiong is a fight against Samara Santos in Shanghai this Saturday. Her last title defense was in Macau, but this will be the first ONE Championship fight in mainland China and the champion is excited to be headlining at the Baoshan Sports Centre.
“I am just a very simple girl who is chasing my dream (but) Chinese people are behind me, like, they are my rock. It gives me the strength to fight my battles; I love China.”
Xiong successfully defended her title for the first time in Macau earlier this year. The opponent was Laura Balin who, like Santos, was a promotional newcomer. The 30-year-old claimed a unanimous decision win, but was not particularly happy with her performance.
“She was very tough. Her ground game was good, and her power stronger than I expected. To be honest, I was not very happy because the match did not go the way I expected. I wanted to finish her so badly, but I was not patient enough.”
Xiong doesn’t have too much to say on the subject of Samaras, simply stating that, “I am pretty sure we both will give our best for this one.”
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She does acknowledge that fighting in Shanghai brings additional pressure. Xiong is ONE Championship’s first ever Chinese champion and has emerged as the public face of the promotion in the most populous country on the planet.
“I would not say there is no pressure at all. But yes, in a positive way, my people always make me do a better job,” Xiong explains.
She made her ONE Championship debut last December, after putting together a four fight winning streak with Chinese Kunlun Fight. Since then Xiong’s career has taken a steep upwards trajectory, this will be her fourth fight in the last 10 months and an opportunity to take that winning run to the eight-fight mark.
She will be a favorite against Samaras, who has won just one of her last five fights. But greater challenges await Xiong and she knows that victory in Shanghai could secure her a career defining bout against the most recognizable female athlete in modern Asian MMA.
Becoming a champion was not easy for Xiong. But remaining a champion will be even harder and that is the challenge that awaits.
“Sometimes, it is not that difficult to reach the top,” she said. “Remaining on top is the most difficult thing to do.”