MMA: One title bout is about redemption, not revenge, says Singapore fighter Tiffany Teo

SINGAPORE – Tiffany Teo insists redemption, not revenge, will be on her mind when she steps into the cage for the most important fight of her career on Friday (Oct 30).

The Singaporean will face Xiong Jingnan for the Chinese fighter’s women’s strawweight world title at One Championship’s Into The Matrix event at the Indoor Stadium.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) bout is a rematch from January 2018, when Xiong defeated Teo via a fourth-round technical knockout with a flurry of punches at One’s event in Jakarta.

Teo, 30, told The Straits Times: “It’s my chance to show I’m a different fighter than who I was in 2018.

“I was raw, compartmentalised, and I couldn’t put all the different martial arts together and work my game plan. I didn’t understand the game of MMA as well as I do now.”

After a pause, she added with a chuckle: “I’ve told this to a lot of people: The Tiffany in 2020 would probably kick 2018 Tiffany’s a** if we fought.”

She admitted, however, the loss to Xiong – still Teo’s only defeat in 10 MMA fights – stung.

“I didn’t re-watch that fight in full for a year,” she said. “I couldn’t make it past the first two rounds. I just didn’t like what I saw.”

She got over it eventually, however, and has since analysed what went wrong by studying the full fight at least 10 times.

“I realised I was just lacking in some of the reaction time,” she said. “I knew what to do but she was just beating me to most of the exchanges. I was just a step too slow.”

Aside from her growth as a fighter, there has also been a major change in Teo’s appearance.

Gone are her shoulder-length locks, and she now rocks a buzz cut, a la Sigourney Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley in the iconic Alien film series.

Teo explained she had been mulling the move throughout the circuit breaker period for practical reasons, as long hair “gets in the way” when she grapples in training and matches. It became symbolic, too.

“After I accepted the fight with Xiong, I said: Let’s do it,” she said.

“I love this look more, and it’s perfect for training. I shower faster, I don’t have to spend time between rounds tying my hair. All those seconds add up.”

Xiong, is aware of the progress Teo has made.

“Since our fight three years ago, I’ve seen (Teo) grow and she has definitely made a lot of improvement,” the Shandong native, 32, said.

“That pressures me, but I also enjoy this kind of pressure as it pushes me to want to do even better. I think she will continue to leverage on her ground game for the upcoming fight.”

She decided to join the Evolve Fight Team in January, and has been based in the Republic since. She admitted she felt homesick, but added she has been trying to channel that emotion to drive herself.

“I feel bad for neglecting my family but I am clear of what my goals are and what I need to accomplish,” she said.

“As much as I miss my family, I will continue to push forward… I really enjoy training under the world champion instructors at Evolve MMA.”

Both Xiong and Teo combine for 18 finishes – knockouts or submissions – in their 23 wins, and each are targeting another come Friday night.

“How the fight will go will depend on who gets to implement their gameplan, but I don’t want to leave it to the judges’ decision,” said Teo.

“Both of us have evolved over the last three years, and I feel this fight will be a very well-rounded MMA fight. You’ll see a lot of transitions, exchanges, scrambles… it’ll be exciting and interesting.”
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