Mixed martial arts: First career loss makes S'pore fighter Tiffany Teo even more hungry

Tiffany Teo wore sunglasses throughout her 20-minute interview with The Straits Times at the Junction 8 foodcourt, as there was still some bruising around her eyes, which were also sensitive to light. ST PHOTO: LIM SAY HENG

When the referee stopped the One Championship women's strawweight (52.3-56.7kg) title bout in the fourth round last Saturday in Jakarta, Singapore's Tiffany Teo did not feel sad or relieved.

Instead, she was "p****d" at Olivier Coste for stopping the fight and thereby declaring China's Xiong Jingnan the winner.

Despite taking heavy blows from Xiong in the previous rounds, and sporting a swollen face and ears in that last round, the 27-year-old insisted there was more in her tank.

"I was ready to go, I wanted to go for the sweep," Teo told The Straits Times (ST) in an exclusive interview yesterday afternoon at a foodcourt in the Junction 8 mall in Bishan.

"Some people may think that I was knocked down, that I was pretty hurt and just fell back, but what I was trying to do was to sweep her on the ground.

"But, after the fight, I re-evaluated everything and I could see why the referee did what he did: it was his job to protect the fighters."

Teo was taken to the hospital by an ambulance on standby after the fight, with her coach Luke Adams accompanying her.

As the scans showed no serious damage to her body, Teo was discharged in the afternoon last Sunday and flew back yesterday afternoon. During her hospital stay, Teo had time to reflect on what went wrong in that fight, as she could not sleep at night due to the pain from her injuries.

"I made a lot of small mistakes, like setting up my shots and being less predictable. She is my toughest opponent yet and, at this higher level, these little things add up," she said.

"I would say that I was a little devastated. It was my first loss and, after the adrenaline died off, I couldn't see (because of the swelling). I was like, okay I lost my first fight and I can't see now, are you kidding me?"

But the defeat, her first in eight professional bouts, did not kill her spirit for the sport. Instead it fuelled her hunger for more.

"I am really hungry to recover and get back to training and work on the things I need to improve on... I am sure that when I fight again you will see a different Tiffany, you will see a lot of improvements," she said.

The encouragement from her friends, fans and even strangers via text messages, Facebook and Instagram also lifted her spirits.

Teo said: "I received some messages from people I don't even know, telling me that it was a good fight, and that they were really impressed by my performance even though I lost. It was really nice and heartwarming, despite my loss."

The former therapist for children with special needs added that she plans to resume coaching soon, but will lay off training for about a month to recover from her injuries.

Teo wore sunglasses throughout her 20-minute interview with ST, as there was still some bruising around her eyes, which were also sensitive to light.

Because of her injuries, Teo is staying with a friend for a week or two instead of going home.

"I told my family that I am okay and not to worry, but I don't think it's the best time to see them now," said Teo, the youngest of three siblings. "When I watch my friends fight and they get hurt, it's also not a nice feeling for me, so it's going to hurt my family members more.

"When I look more like my usual self, I would go back and hopefully it won't hurt them so much."

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