‘Panda’ vows to do China proud in One Championship title defence as threat of Angela Lee looms
Xiong Jingnan defends her world title against Brazilian who is out to spoil the party as Hawaiian-based star Lee waits in the wings ready to step up in weight
China’s Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan (15-1) is fully focused on what lies ahead on Saturday night in her One Championship world strawweight title defence against Brazilian Samara “Marituba” Santos (12-5-1) at Shanghai’s Baoshan Arena.
But there’s no escaping just what – and who – is looming on the horizon.
“Being world champion is a great honour and has brought lots of attention for me,” Xiong told the South China Morning Post. “Every time I step in the cage I know China is watching me and I always say I want to show female Chinese fighters what can be possible.
“On Saturday I have a job to do – and that is beat my opponent and in doing that become a better fighter. Everybody knows what will come next and I can’t worry about that yet. We can talk about that later.”
The shadow that hangs over that statement is One’s unbeaten world atomweight champion and the poster girl for the sport in Angela “Unstoppable” Lee (9-0), who has declared she is primed and ready for a step up to strawweight.
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) September 4, 2018
The Hawaiian-based fighter has dominated during her two-year reign at atomweight and One has a date pencilled in for November 9 in Singapore, the city out of which the 22-year-old fights.
It would be a quick turnaround for Xiong but not beyond possibility.
Unless, of course, Santos spoils the party on Saturday night.
The 25-year-old from Marituba is an unknown quantity in these parts, having plied her trade exclusively on the domestic circuits back home until now.
Santos’ record of six submissions among her victories suggests Xiong will want to keep out of the Brazilian’s clutches and the Chinese fighter revealed she had been working on her ground game and on the standing power that built her reputation – and has brought with it eight knockouts.
“I’ve looked at some tapes but I am more concerned about focusing on what I have to do,” said Xiong. “It’s more important to take things as they come, to take every fight as it comes at you. [Santos] looks strong on her feet but I am not concerned.”
Last time out – in a unanimous points decision over Argentina’s Laura “La Gladiadora” Balin (10-3) in Macau in June – Xiong failed to deliver the devastation that was expected against an opponent many had dismissed as a warm-up act.
Disappointment with the night quite obviously lingers and the common thinking here is that a statement is about to be made as Xiong defends her title for the first time on the mainland.
“I wasn’t happy with my fight in Macau,” said Xiong. “I wanted more out of myself and I didn’t finish the fight off as I wanted to and expected to. There were things I wanted to execute – like my punches – that I just couldn’t get working. So I went back to training and now I have sorted these problems out. I feel stronger and more confident than I ever have before.”
Xiong’s rise to the world title with One has turned the mainland media’s gaze her way and she’s been at the forefront of the Singapore-based organisation’s efforts to spread the sport across the country.
Those efforts were on show on Thursday at Shanghai’s Pinghe Bilingual School, where One’s heavyweight world champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera (15-7-1) held about 300 schoolchildren in his grip – figuratively, that is – during a motivation session and skills display.
“Things are moving so fast in China,” said Vera. “People know who fighters are, they know Xiong and they are proud. We go to schools, we meet the fans and we talk to them about what martial arts are all about – and we tell them our personal stories and journeys. You can feel the love for the sport here and Xiong is playing a huge part in that.”
Xiong is well aware of the role she plays and of how her development is impacting on the next generation of fans, and fighters. It’s been a whirlwind 18 months, with Xiong claiming the title over Singapore’s Tiffany “No Chill” Teo (7-1), that first title defence – and a nomination as Female Fighter of the Year at the Asia MMA Awards, which are being held at Hong Kong’s PMQ in Central on September 14.
“I am very grateful for what has happened and for the fact that people know who is Xiong Jingnan,” she said. “I am determined to make sure this path will continue.”