Chinese bantamweight Ma Xu Dong returns to ONE Championship action in Yangon, Myanmar at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS looking to capture his first win in the organisation.
The 27-year-old known as “Tank” will take on Afghanistan’s Ahmad Qais Jasoor on Friday, 26 October, and is hopeful of success in his second appearance under the banner of the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Ma’s journey started back in Tongxin, China, where he grew up with his family before joining the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Once he completed his stint with the PLA, he took up a job as a van driver, only for boredom to compel him to switch gears and pursue an athletic career.
He worked as a fitness coach in Xi’an and desperately searched for ways to further his passion for martial arts.
“I couldn’t let go of my dream,” he says.
“I looked for clubs everywhere in Xi’an. I met my master, Yang Jinshuai, and my team at the age of 25, and I began to train regularly.”
Ma started out in the striking arts, compiling a 12-3 record in kickboxing against international opposition, but he was fascinated by the prospect of competing in mixed martial arts.
“In the beginning, I attended boxing fights and free fighting competitions. After all, the opportunity to fight is very precious,” he explains.
“Later, I slowly found that mixed martial arts was more suitable for me, and then resolutely started exploring it.”
Learning his skills under the watchful eye of master Yang and the other coaches at Sihai Lien Cheng Team, Ma transitioned from a striker to a well-rounded martial artist, ready to take on the world. He attributes his progression to the guidance of his coaches and teammates at the gym.
“Sihai Lien Cheng is my second home,” he explains.
“There are many brothers and sisters there, and we all train together and pursue our dreams.”
Ma made his promotional debut in a short-notice bout against Zhao Zhi Kang at ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS in July in Guangzhou.
Stepping in at just two days’ notice against a bigger opponent with more experience, it was a tough introduction to life in ONE, but a challenge he was happy to take on.
“I hesitated for a while, but my master and his team helped me analyse the situation, and I decided to compete,” he says.
“It was my dream to be able to fight in such a high-end international promotion like ONE.”
Ma’s performance was enough to convince ONE’s executives to offer him a multi-bout deal.
“Later, I got the ONE contract. It was an unexpected surprise, so I’m really happy,” he says.
Now a full-time ONE Championship athlete, Ma is preparing to make his second appearance for the promotion as he looks to improve on his 5-2 record.
He may have arrived in the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in Asia, but he knows this is just the start of the journey, rather than the destination.
“I know I am not good enough yet, but I must be the hardest working fighter,” he says.
“I need to train harder to get a better result.”
His bout with Jasoor in Yangon is Ma’s first opportunity to compete outside of China, and it has given him an added level of excitement and anticipation heading into the contest as he looks to claim his first win as a ONE athlete.
“When you go abroad, you represent not only yourself, but China, so there is pressure,” he says.
“I must win this time. I am well prepared. For my team, for my country, I want to win this bout.”