'The Panda' is ONE's first Chinese belt holder
Thirty-year-old Xiong Jingnan made Chinese history recently when she won the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship in Indonesia.
The Shandong Province native floored Singapore’s Tiffany Teo to become the first Chinese to win a gold belt on Asia’s premier mix martial arts stage.
The two traded their best offense in the main event of ONE Championship ─ Kings of Courage at the Jakarta Convention Center.
“I have managed to make myself known to the MMA followers in the world ... this is just the beginning of my dream,” an excited Xiong told a packed crowd in the Indonesian capital.
Nicknamed “The Panda,” Xiong’s short-hair boyish appearance matches well with her cool and straightforward personality. She began her boxing career in 2006 and achieved a third-place finish at the national women’s boxing championship in 2007. She got hooked onto MMA in 2013.
“I want to challenge myself as MMA is a sport for the brave,” says Xiong. “But it also means I have to spend more time than others to practice skills like judo and wrestling, which lead to frequent injuries.”
Xiong has made regular comebacks from fractures and injuries to the elbow, rib, ankle and cervical vertebra, all suffered during training sessions.
“The Panda” entered ONE Championship’s first main event of 2018 aggressively, putting forth a remarkable showcase of boxing skills with the added advantage of speed and power.
Her opponent Teo worked hard to find a way to get Xiong to the mat, but “The Panda,” was always able to get back to her feet every time she hit the canvas.
In the second of the five-round strawweight contest, Xiong turned up the pressure and landed powerful left hooks as well as overhand rights on her opponent. The tenacious Teo survived the third round, but had very little left to begin the fourth.
Xiong sent Teo crashing onto the canvas with a solid left hook two minutes into the fourth round before referee Olivier Coste decided to stop the contest and awarded the bout to Xiong, making her China’s first world champion in the ONE cage.
The victory improved Xiong’s record to 14-1 and handed Teo her first defeat of her professional career.
Xiong says confidence and strong self-control have been the key to her success ─ both in boxing and in MMA.
“I did not study my opponent before the fight but concentrated on my own trainings,” says Xiong. “Too much study of opponents can cause unnecessary nervousness as they are very likely to change their strategies during the fights. So I prefer giving full play to my own skills and handle the opponent’s strategy on the fighting stage itself.
“My Libyan coach and agent Ali Elezzabi knows about my habits and style and talks only about training before my fights,” Xiong says.
She has also discovered reading as a way to build a strong mental power.
“I don’t have much leisure time due to trainings, but I have a habit of reading books especially those on philosophy and motivational themes. They help me to strengthen and control my emotions during competition,” she says.
Xiong says she inherited the tough character from her father who was also her idol.
“From my childhood, my father has been encouraging me to face challenges and solve problems myself instead of turning to others. He also taught me to be brave and take the responsibilities for my own mistakes and learn from them.”
Xiong says after her victory, it was “a chance to show the world what China and women can do.”
“Not many people knew about me before the fight, but they do now. This is the beginning of my dream, and my next target is to defend the belt,” she says.
Xiong hopes her victory will help attract more people to the sport, which has been steadily growing popular in the country.
“Apart from the retired athletes who chose to practice MMA as an extension of their career, I noticed that more people from the general public, especially the white-collar workers, are taking up the sport either for fitness purposes or as a self-defense skill. MMA has a growing market,” claims Xiong.
“If Chinese fighters can improve their training system and nutrition structure, we won't be any less competitive than our foreign counterparts,” she adds.
Xiong was among the three Chinese talents who were added to ONE’s growing roster last November. The Singapore-based group has signed about 90 Chinese fighters ─ 20 of them with exclusive contracts, meaning they cannot compete in other MMA events.
ONE is planning to stage three competitions in China this year.