EDDIE NG, THE TOP RANKED ONE FC LIGHTWEIGHT SEEMS DESTINED FOR GREAT THINGS BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CAGE, WRITES MATT EATON.
SOME fighters dream of reaching the sport’s biggest stage, claiming a title and destroying everyone in their path to glory. But Eddie Ng is different.
Early in his career, “The Magician” turned down a UFC contract; and recently said he would never fight for the ONE FC lightweight belt if it meant going up against his friend and training partner Shinya Aoki, ONE FC’s current 155-pound division champ.
“In all honesty, the title doesn’t mean too much to me,” Ng told ROUGH.
“Being able to fight for the ONE FC lightweight title would be nice, but that’s not why I fight. I want to be known as someone who takes on challenges, no matter how big they are.” And challenges are something Ng has been taking on for most of his life.
Born in Hong Kong, but raised in the UK, Ng experienced the darker sides of racism and bullying at an early age, but says the experience helped shape him as a person and a fighter.
“If I could go back and change what happened, I wouldn’t. I think all your past experiences make you the person you are today,” he admits.
“What I can appreciate now, through the bullying and racism I experienced, is I went about the situation the wrong way.
“I have two older brothers and I’m sure they went through the same thing, but I didn’t tell them and I didn’t tell my parents. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to talk about people hitting me in the face with a bag or people spitting on me, so I kept it inside.”
Bullying and racism is a universal topic in sport, but people are largely afraid to talk about it.
Ng says his experience and willingness to talk about it publicly has already made an impact in his adopted home of Singapore where he trains out of Evolve MMA.
“I know it’s happened to a lot of people, but they don’t know how to express it. At Evolve, I have a student who has experienced bullying, but keeping it inside is the worst thing you can do.
“I accept it now, I’m even a little bit thankful for it because it’s made me who I am.”
Ng’s meteoric rise to the top ranks of mixed martial arts in Asia is a story few fighters can lay claim to. When he moved to Singapore to join Evolve and sign with ONE FC, he was a relatively unknown lightweight.
But Ng has since established himself as one of the most exciting fighters in the region.
TRAINING IN MARTIAL ARTS HELPED ME REGAIN SELF CONFIDENCE. YOU REALISE WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF, NOT JUST PHYSICALLY BUT MENTALLY.
In 2013 he stopped Peter Davis and Arnaud Lepont, extending his winning streak to 4-0.
Earlier this year, Ng put that undefeated streak on the line against Dutch kickboxer Vincent Latoel, and suffered a controversial early stoppage.
Despite the loss, it was his post fight performance that might be remembered more than the three minutes and 16 seconds he fought against Latoel. Faced with a hugely displeased crowd shouting over the top of Latoel’s post-victory interview, Ng was gracious in defeat.
“I know the crowd was booing after the stoppage, but the referee is here to look after the safety of the fighters. I’m not going to argue.
“I had a really good training camp, the weight cut was one of the best I’ve ever experienced, so I had no excuses going into the fight.”
Ng comes into the sport at a time when its growth is exploding.
ONE FC alone is exploring new territory almost every month, but still he says there is a lot of misconceptions about MMA in the community.
“For sure it is misunderstood. People watch it on TV and think it’s just two guys fighting in a cage, but you have to look beyond that.
“The amount of sacrifice and dedication these two guys have put in, just for this one night, potentially fifteen minutes, is crazy.
“These guys are training four to five hours a day just for one night.
The amount of discipline that goes into it is unreal. Training in martial arts helped me regain self confidence. You realise what you’re capable of, not just physically but mentally.
“With MMA, people need to realise it’s a sport now. Just because these guys fight in a cage or in a ring does not make them bad people.
“They are athletes. I consider myself an athlete and I carry myself as a professional athlete when I compete and also outside.
“I don’t think many people realise that, they just think that because he fights inside a cage, for sure he must fight outside, but you couldn’t be more wrong.”
Ng says he has never been forced to use his skills outside of competition and says his teammates feel the same.
“Even now, if there’s a situation where guys are looking for trouble, I would never fight outside, you have to walk away.”
Ng owes his nickname, “The Magician” to Lee Doski and Jason Ball, two MMA veterans who he fought and defeated in his first two professional fights.
“I thrive on a challenge, the more people that say I can’t win I use it as motivation to prove them wrong.
“A lot of people were saying it was just beginner’s luck, which is fair enough. It’s MMA and anything can happen. But after I won my second fight with Jason Ball who on paper had over 20 fights, guys on the circuit were saying, how can someone who never fought professionally come out and beat these two top guys? He must be doing some sort of magic or something. From there on it sort of stuck.
“I hated it at first, but the thing with nicknames, if someone gives you a nickname you keep it whether you like it or not.
“If it was the Big Fish or something ridiculous, you have to keep it.”
Ng’s dedication to training, clean living and his coaching reads almost like a template for how future stars in Asia will be promoted, but he admits it’s not an easy path.
“The discipline to dedicate yourself to training is not something everyone can do, I know that because I’ve sacrificed a lot to learn martial arts.
“You always want to win and improve. Today I need to make sure I did something better than I did yesterday.
“I need to somehow improve every day, otherwise it’s a waste of time. That carries across my professional career to relationships and for me martial arts has given me that.”
When ONE FC announced a blockbuster deal to hold 10 events a year in 10 cities across China, Ng was named as a potential starter for the first event in Beijing.
But still, he admits that fighting in his native home of Hong Kong will be a highlight of his career.
“I’d love to fight in Hong Kong. If ONE FC do an event in Hong Kong I’d be absolutely honoured to fight here,” he says.
But there is much more to the 28-year-old than just taking fights.
“Once I’m done competing and physically I can’t perform at the level I want to perform at, I want to go into training and teaching,” he says.
“Martial arts changed my life so much, and I understand how much power martial arts actually has.
“If I can pass on a little bit of knowledge or technique to another generation, then they will carry that with them forever, so in a sense you become immortalised through your teaching.
“No one can take that away from you.”