Australia’s Adrian “The Hunter” Pang has always been one of ONE Championship’s biggest crowd pleasers.
The 40-year-old from Brisbane has thrilled crowds across Asia with his all-action style, and he’ll be looking to carry on that tradition when he returns to action at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR against former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario on 20 April.
Last time out, Pang lost a decision to Singaporean contender Amir Khan, but it was a bout that saw the Aussie head into the cage in less than prime condition, as he explained.
“Well, I smashed my knee two weeks before my last contest, and I thought it was just a bit swollen,” he told ONE Championship.
“The swelling went down, and I could not run much, but I had no idea it was as bad as it was until afterwards.
“I had to get an MRI, and I had a torn PCL. Basically, my knee was just torn [badly], and was unstable. I did not have surgery, but they said come back in three months’ time. I came back exactly in three months’ time, and the scar tissue should have healed up.
“I came back, and they said go for it. It is still not 100 percent, but it is never going to be, so I am happy. I tore my knee, but I was not going to pull out of the bout, and I was not going to sit back because I hurt my knee. No matter what happens, you are never going to be 100 percent. So I am happy with where I am at.”
The veteran admits that while he holds a valuable experience advantage over his opponents, his advancing years have meant that preparing for bouts has become much tougher than when he was in his 20s and 30s. Plus, there’s the sheer level of talent he’s facing on a regular basis.
“The bouts are not getting easier for me,” he said.
“I’ve lost three in a row. I am not facing someone that has lost three in a row, or even two in a row. Honorio has won four in a row. Amir [Khan] had won how many in a row? I will face anyone if I am given time to prepare for them.
“It feels like crap because I am 40, so it just sucks. I know I cannot [compete] forever, but I would love to do it forever, and it is going to feel like crap when I have to stop.
“Yes, I have been losing, but it is not like I am getting my butt handed to me, or my head knocked out to where I have to say, ‘Hey, it is time to hang up the gloves.’ With people trying to run around and out-point me, it is like I have not really lost a bout. It still hurts all the same, but I do not feel that my back is against the wall.”
With Pang now 40 years of age, he’s beginning to field questions on the topic of his retirement from the sport. But the Australian says he’s still got plenty to offer.
“It depends on the individual, not so much your age,” he explained.
“Sure, I am a little bit more tired than I used to be, and my injuries hang around a little bit longer, but I’ve still got it. I still actively coach in my gym, and I am a hands-on guy. I lead by example.
“I’ve got a young two-time Australian champion [in the gym], and I am hanging in there with him, and teaching him my tricks. I still feel great, and I still feel I can do it. I just want exciting bouts.
“They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but I have been there, done that, and I am always evolving. I am not stuck in the 1980s.
“I pride myself on leading by example, and obviously when I am winning, I get more members [at the gym]. But my students know I am giving it my all whether I win, lose, or draw. They know I am not shortcutting myself. It is a little harder because I have to run the show, as well as train myself, so I do not get the coaching that I need. But I am cool with it.
“I have some undefeated boys in my gym now, and they are going to be huge one day, so seeing them win [now] is so cool. This can be a selfish sport, but not on my team. We stand for each other, and there are no egos.”
Pang heads up a clutch of Australian athletes who are turning heads in the martial arts world, and “The Hunter” says he’s proud to be a part of it, and to see the next generation of Australian stars making their way through.
“We are finally catching up,” he said.
“We have always been tough, and we have been producing champions since 2001. It is cool. I see Martin Nguyen doing well, and Reece McLaren [is doing well], and it is great.
“We are all for one, and one for all down here. When they win, I am happy. When Martin knocked out Eduard [Folayang] in my division, I did not feel threatened. I just felt happy that another Australian won the gold, especially the way that he did it.”
When asked whether he could ever face a fellow countryman like Martin Nguyen, he said he’d have no problem whatsoever.
“It is not like we are training partners,” he said.
“I know him, and we are not, like, best friends. He would face me, and if he had the belt, I would face him.
“But I do not like talking about that too much because everybody is calling Martin out. He has two belts, and everybody should just shut their mouths, and get in line.”