MMA fighting Panda has China’s first world title in her sights
Xiong Jingnan set to face Tiffany Teo for the inaugural One Championship women’s world strawweight championship
Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan has been tucked away in Phuket and trying to focus on fine tuning her craft but it has been impossible for the 30-year-old Chinese fighter not to think of the bigger picture.
On Saturday, January 20, Xiong (10-1) steps into the cage at the Jakarta Convention Centre to face Singapore’s Tiffany “No Chill” Teo (7-0) for the inaugural One Championship women’s world strawweight championship.
Victory would see Xiong become the first Chinese fighter to claim a world title with Asia’s leading mixed martial arts promotion and the ramifications, she says, would be massive.
“I know how much the fight means to me and means to China,” says Xiong. “To become the first One world champion from China would be a kind of miracle. It is up to me to bring ‘China power’ to a whole new level and to show an international audience just how good Chinese fighters are.
“There are a lot of Chinese women coming through and I want to inspire them and to show them what we can achieve. I want to pay back all my fans who have supported me on this journey, no matter what.”
It’s mid-morning when we talk and Xiong is still a little hazy from sleep after another day of workouts with the famed Phuket Top Team who have been putting the Beijing-based fighter through her paces in the lead up to her clash with the 28-year-old Teo.
There have been visits by Chinese and international media – and a growing sense of awareness back home about just who Xiong is and what she could achieve come Saturday night – but the trip to Thailand for fight camp has allowed Xiong to remove herself somewhat from the madness that builds before each and every world title fight. And Xiong is under no illusions when it comes to the task ahead.
“I have been fighting my way towards this dream for a long time,” says Xiong. “I think I have a good chance and I am hungry for the win. But the fight is about more than just me. Fighting on this stage, for a world championship, shows that MMA in China is reaching another level. It will bring more people to the sport, and there should be more and more people joining this sport.”
The Shandong-born Xiong came to MMA via weightlifting and boxing, inspired by a father who believed combat sports would teach his daughter valuable life lessons.
“He influenced me a lot,” says Xiong. “He would say that I am a girl but I have got to be tough, I have to be brave and I have to feel confident. This affected me very much and it has inspired me throughout my career. When I was a boxer I thought it didn’t matter how good or bad my skills were, it was more about how hungry I was to win. That was the key thing.
“It is more about how you motivate yourself. I moved to MMA because of the challenge you have in learning all these different skills. My father always told me that in life you had to keep challenging yourself and that’s what I am doing in MMA.”
Xiong emerged from the China-based Kunlun Fight organisation, chalking up a 9-1 record (which included six knockouts) since her debut fight in August 2014 before being lured across to the One ranks. She has been expanding her repertoire ever since – claiming a gold medal at last year’s China Open Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament before making a stunning debut at the One: Warriors of the World card in Bangkok in December, pulverising Filipino April Osenio (2-3) and getting the TKO nod with 3.44 gone in the first round.
That fight was all about Xiong’s heavy hands as she battered away at an over-matched opponent. In Teo, the Chinese fighter faces a different prospect entirely as the Singapore fighter has been carving her own way through One’s strawweight division, leaning on a background steeped in taekwondo, boxing and Muay Thai.
“I’m not perfect,” says Xiong. “And MMA requires such a high level of skills you have to keep learning and keep training your all-round skills, not matter if it is striking or on the ground wrestling. The coaches at Phuket Top Team really push you every day and I feel I am become stronger and stronger.
“I never really think about my opponent because my focus should be on me, not on her. I have to work on my fight plan not think about hers. I have watched her fights and I know how she fights, what her style is. But I watched the fights once and don’t need to watch them again. I know her skills and I know what I have to do. I just have to fight my fight.”