At ONE Championship: Empower on September 3, strawweight champion Xiong Jing Nan will enter the cage for the fifth defense of her title. Although she has a stiff test in Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Michelle Nicolini, “The Panda” looks at the matchup as just the next step in her journey to be the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time.
Xiong Jing Nan is in pursuit of GOAT status
Heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Jing Nan (15-2) has worn the ONE strawweight crown proudly for three years. It has been an impressive reign that includes turning back atomweight champion Angela Lee’s attempt at two-division champion status. Now, at “Empower” the 33-year-old has a chance to become the longest-reigning women’s champion in the promotion’s history if she can beat Nicolini (6-2) inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium. However, while that milestone is a meaningful moment in her career, she views it as just another chapter in the story she hopes to write as the best female MMA fighter the sport’s ever seen.
“This would be my fifth title defense after I take this victory against Nicolini. If I recall correctly, this will be the longest championship reign in ONE women’s MMA history,” Jing Nan told MixedMartialArts.com. “So yes, I might have accomplished a few things over the last couple of years, and I’m always grateful for the support of my fans from all over the world, but I still feel like I’m not reaching the peak of my career yet. I’m still chasing the dream of becoming the most dominant women’s athlete in the history of the sport.”
Jing Nan hopes to empower girls and thrill boys at ONE Championship: Empower
As one of the promotion’s longest-reigning champions, the Chinese star was given the headlining spot at “Empower.” The ONE’s all-female event featuring the quarterfinals of their atomweight Grand Prix. It’s a special position that comes with a great deal of responsibility since events like these are a rarity in combat sports. It’s an opportunity that the native of Jining relishes, as an example to young girls and boys in China, and around the world, about equality and female empowerment.
“Trust me, being a female fighter is not easy anywhere in the world. I feel very honored to inspire women from all different professions and areas in my country, but when I first did professional MMA, it wasn’t even a thing in China yet. Now, every time I go into a fight, millions of fans are standing behind me,” said Jing Nan.
Women are just as talented fighters as men. When I was little, I watched a lot kung-fu and actions movies, and always wondered why only men can be the heroes. Why women were vulnerable and fragile in the movies. It just makes no sense to me. Now things are different, women all stand-up fighting for equality. I would be so happy to see a little boy pin my poster on his bedroom wall, because once he did that, he knows how to respect a successful and powerful woman.”
Jing Nan admits being ‘smug’ about ground game preparation in the past
To continue her reign as champion, and progress forward in her overall pursuits, Jing Nan will have to beat Nicollini, and that will be no easy task. The multi-time BJJ world champion has only lost once in her five bouts in ONE, and one of her victories includes an upset over a shared opponent in Angela Lee.
Lee has a victory over Jing Nan, and has a similar grappling-heavy style to Nicolini. Considering “Unstoppable” was able to defeat Jing Nan with her grappling, there could be cause for some concern heading into this next fight. However, the champ sees a major difference in her upcoming bout and her unsuccessful rematch with Lee in 2019. In this fight, she has made preparing for the ground game a priority. That’s something she did not do against Lee after scoring a technical knockout in their first fight.
“Frankly, I didn’t prepare a lot on the ground game when I fought Angela, because I was smug about my heavy punch, and I’ve learned my lesson,” says Jing Nan. “This time I did train targeting Nicolini. Focusing on how to stop her BJJ attack. Nicolini is way more experienced than Angela. I know I must be more careful and detailed against her. I’ve been improving my wrestling and grappling. I’ve put tons of work on my ground game. I’m confident that I’m great at both stand-up fighting and ground control. I promise all my fans you’ll see a new 2.0 [version of] Xiong Jing Nan.”
If victorious, a challenge from fourth-ranked strawweight Ayaka Miura next makes a lot of sense. And the current division queen is open to the matchup. However, Jing Nan has something else in mind that she’ll reveal during her post-fight interview with ONE announcer Mitch Chilson at “Empower.”
“I have no problem excepting her challenge once she proves that she deserves it. I’m actually planning on something new. You will hear it when [Mitch Chilson] interviews me [after the win],” she said.
ONE Championship: Empower takes place on Sept. 3 inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The event will air live on Bleacher Report and B/R app at 8:30 am ET.