Local challenger out to thrill home fans at 11-bout Beijing show’s main event
With a card boasting an array of exciting local talent and a movie-star heroine, global martial arts promotion the One Championship is packing a serious punch as it returns to Beijing this weekend.
After a four-year hiatus, Saturday’s 11-bout card in the capital’s Wukesong Arena is a perfect opportunity for China’s best kick-boxers and mixed martial artists to prove their caliber against world-class opponents.
The main event will introduce China’s Wang Wenfeng, aka Metal Storm, to the world as the 26-year-old challenges champion Dutch-Moroccan fighter Ilias “Tweety” Ennahachi for One’s flyweight kickboxing title in his debut for the Singapore-based promotion.
If he succeeds, Wang will become the first Chinese male to win a major MMA world title, having dominated domestic promotions’ kickboxing and Muay Thai series.
Wang, representing Wuhan-based Xingbo Shengshi Fight Club, is confident that he can keep the golden belt in China－and is hoping for just a little extra help from an adrenalin-pumped home crowd.
“It’s a big honor as well as a great opportunity to be able to challenge for a world title in my One Championship debut. I will make the best out of it to try to keep the belt in Beijing. I believe I can,” Wang told media after an open workout in Beijing on Wednesday.
In the opposite corner, Wang will encounter against a ferocious striker in Ennahachi, who is making his first defense after capturing the 135-pound crown in August with a stunning left-hook knockout of Petchdam Petchyindee Academy.
The five-round fight in Beijing will be the duo’s third encounter after they claimed a victory each from a pair of previous battles－in 2014 in the Netherlands, won by Ennahachi, and a 2017 rematch in Wuhan, won by Wang via split decision.
“The third time is where I will show that I am just much better than he is. Everyone knows, everyone saw. I’m not going to hold back this time,” said the 23-year-old Ennahachi.
Ennahachi’s hard-punching style, which saw him win five of his previous six fights by knockout, has made the clash against Wang an intriguing treat for fans as the Chinese is known for his clean and precise technique, often unleashing devastating three-punch combinations, according to a combatpress.com analysis.
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The co-main event will decide the promotion’s inaugural light heavyweight kickboxing champ. It pits Tarik Khbabez, another Dutch-Moroccan whose current six-fight winning streak includes four One wins, against Ukrainian Roman Kryklia, who is making his One debut after winning his last eight fights under the banner of Chinese promotion The Kunlun Fight.
The Beijing card also features one of the most anticipated new stars on the women’s MMA scene in Indian wrestler Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat, who will make her One debut in an atomweight contest against South Korea’s “Captain Marvel”, Kim Nam-hee.
Phogat has already enjoyed some fame in China as one of the characters in hit movie Dangal, a sports biopic inspired by her Olympic wrestling coach father, and she is now keen to prove her pedigree in the ring.
“I am really excited and a little bit nervous for my debut,” said Phogat at the open workout.
“I know I have many fans already in China so I can’t wait to show them how good a fighter I am in this new combat discipline for me,” said the 25-year-old, who won a silver medal in the 48kg at the 2017 Under-23 Wrestling World Championships.
To prepare for her MMA debut, Phogat moved to Singapore to train at the renowned Evolve gym, where she has trained with multiple Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champions to bring her striking and submission skills up to par with her grappling ability.
Her ultimate goal is to become India’s first mixed martial arts world champion within two years, she said.
As well as Wang, there will be more local flavor on the card in the form of One debutant Meng Bo and Miao Litao. Meng, a two-time Chinese national MMA champion, will square off against Argentine veteran Laura Balin in another women’s atomweight bout.
She has been tipped to coax a tapout from Balin, having accumulated five submission wins in fights for domestic promotions.
Miao will face off against Filipino fighter Jeremy Miado in a men’s strawweight bout in the card’s opening contest. If Miao defeats Miado, he could find himself added to the list of contenders for the One strawweight belt, which is currently held by Joshua Pacio of the Philippines.