For mixed martial arts MMA fighters being punched, kicked, elbowed and kneed is all in a day’s work but nothing could have prepared Adrian Pang for the brutal beating he received in a Gold Coast nightclub.
He was ranked as the number one lightweight in Australia and had just seen five of his team mates win fights when disaster struck.
Pang was out celebrating but had not been drinking heavily and was minding his own business when a nasty brawl broke out. The Papua New Guinea born fighter wasn’t involved in the initial altercation but suddenly found himself the victim of a vicious and unprovoked assault.
I’M NOT A BIG TALKER BUT EVERYONE WHO KNOWS ME KNOWS HOW GOOD MY STYLE IS. I CAN TAKE A LOT OF DAMAGE AND I CAN GIVE EVEN MORE DAMAGE.
“I had five fighters from my gym competing at an MMA event on the Gold Coast, they all won by stoppage and it was probably 1am by the time we got out, We were celebrating when a bit of trouble broke out among patrons and I was suddenly tackled from behind by two security guards, one held my legs and one held my arms.
“I wasn’t resisting and the next minute I got my head kicked in by about six people according to witnesses.”
The injuries which Pang sustained during this attack in May, 2012 were far more severe than anything he had experienced in his decades long combat sports career.
“I’ve had 40 pro fights and I’ve never been knocked out or fractured or broken anything. After the assault my eye was closed for three weeks, I had bleeding in the back of my throat, fractured cheekbones and severe headaches. I needed a reconstructed right eye orbital and a socket put in my right eye. I was told I was never going to fight again.”
Pang was 35 when the assault happened, an age where most professional athletes begin to contemplate retirement. The sensible thing would have been to walk away from the sport he had been competing in since 2001 but the Australian refused to allow his fate to be dictated by an arbitrary nightclub attack.
“Most people would have used it as an excuse to retire but I’m different because I do what I want to do and I’m going retire when I’ve had enough – not when someone makes me give up.”
A year later the returned to the cage to take on the number one ranked Australian fighter in the division at the time. Having sustained serious facial injuries there was a very real question mark over whether Pang was still capable of competing in MMA but he bounced back to register one of the most impressive wins of his career.
“I healed up and I decided to fight again and I knocked out the number one lightweight in Australia to regain my ranking as number one. I’m not going to let anybody stop me doing what I want to do and I proved everybody wrong.”
That win secured Pang a prestigious contract with ONE Championship. He made his debut in Beijing last year and submitted an experienced Dutch opponent to take his overall record to 21-8-2. Next up is a matchup with Malaysia’s top lightweight in Kuala Lumpur on 9 October.
At the age of 38 Pang should be past his prime, particularly given the toll which the last couple of years has taken on his body. However he is confident he has what it takes to defeat Peter Davis, his opponent at the ONE: ‘Tigers of Asia’ event, and says he is going to do his talking inside the cage.
“I’m not a big talker but everyone who knows me knows how good my style is. I can take a lot of damage and I can give even more damage.”
He’s already won multiple belts during his competitive MMA career but nothing that would compare to the accomplishment of winning a ONE Championship title. Davis is one of the top fighters in the division and Pang knows a win on 9 October would put him within touching distance of a shot at the reigning champion Shinya Aoki.
“To win the One FC title would truly be the icing on the cake for a long career I have had in the sport. For me it would be the pinnacle of my MMA success.”
It would also be one of the most remarkable comeback stories of all time. Doctors told him he could never compete again and Pang’s career appeared to be in tatters after simply finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However he has refused to let this one incident dictate his destiny and the 38-year-old is determined to show that he can still hold his own against the best fighters in the sport.