Teo keeps it simple: eat, sleep, train

Mixed martial arts fighter Tiffany Teo, 27, is spending four weeks in Phuket, Thailand, not to relax but to train before her big fight. She will fight China's Xiong Jingnan for the One Championship strawweight title on Jan 20 in Jakarta.
Singapore's Tiffany Teo (left) during a technical training session at the Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Gym in Phuket, Thailand. She is based there, training for her One Championship strawweight title bout with China's Xiong Jingnan (below) on Jan 20.
Singapore's Tiffany Teo (above) during a technical training session at the Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Gym in Phuket, Thailand. She is based there, training for her One Championship strawweight title bout with China's Xiong Jingnan on Jan 20.PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE MAVEN

This is MMA fighter's motto as she prepares for strawweight title bout with China's Xiong

You sometimes see this slogan on the T-shirts and singlets of fitness enthusiasts: eat, sleep, train, repeat.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Tiffany Teo is living up to that motto in Phuket, Thailand, where she is training for her One Championship strawweight title bout with China's Xiong Jingnan on Jan 20 in Jakarta.

The 27-year-old Singaporean has been training at the Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Gym (TMT) in Chalong since Dec 21, and will fly directly to Indonesia from there for her fight.

"After my last fight, Emilio (Urrutia, one of her coaches) was advising me that TMT was a good camp, and that I should come here and have a feel for myself."

The University of Buffalo psychology graduate did so, liked what she saw, and packed her bags for the Thai island after spending the first two weeks of her fight camp with former One Championship athlete Major Overall at Team Highlight Reel, her home gym in Singapore.

TMT sponsors her training, which can cost 13,500 baht (S$557) a month for muay thai and MMA training, while Teo pays for the rest - accommodation, flights and food - which costs less than $2,000.

"In Singapore, I have other commitments such as friends and family, whereas here, I focus 100 per cent on training," she said.

The daily commute is a 10-minute walk, or a five-minute motorcycle ride down Soi Ta-iad - the locals dub it "Fitness Street" - which is littered with protein shake bars, tattoo parlours and shops selling healthy food such as Greek yogurt.

FEELING CONFIDENT

Be it striking or on the ground, I feel like I have the upper hand, compared to my opponent.

TIFFANY TEO, Singapore MMA exponent, on her fight preparations.

Life is simple for Teo in Phuket: she wakes up every weekday at about 9am and has two or three training sessions a day, ranging from Brazilian jiujitsu, MMA, wrestling and grappling, and does yoga in her free time for recovery.

She trains just once on Saturdays and has a day off on Sundays, which she would sometimes spend on the nearby beach to relax and ponder about winning the belt.

"Sometimes I do visualise how it would be, and I picture it to be pretty overwhelming," said Teo, who added that her background in psychology would be an added advantage in the upcoming high-profile bout.

A beer and pizza lover, she avoids alcohol and fried food during her preparatory phase to make sure she makes the weight for her 52.3-56.7kg category.

She has even bumped into her opponent Xiong a few times - the Chinese fighter trains at Phuket Top Team along the same street - and exchanged pleasantries.

Xiong, 28, said: "We said 'hi' and shook hands, we may have to fight each other in the ring but, outside of it, we don't have to be enemies."

TMT head coach George Hickman believes that Teo, a former school-choir member, has enough in her arsenal to become the first Singaporean to win a major MMA title on Jan 20. One atomweight world champion Angela Lee fights under the Singapore flag because her father was born here, but is an American citizen.

Hickman, 32, said: "(Xiong) is a tough girl, she has trained here years ago. She is tough and aggressive, but the things we've been working on with Tiffany, I think she will have enough answers and come out top... I think Tiffany is going to do great."

Teo is similarly confident of her chances.

"I am very prepared for this fight," she said.

"Be it striking or on the ground, I feel like I have the upper hand, compared to my opponent.

"No matter where the fight goes, I feel like a knockout or submission is possible."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'Teo keeps it simple: eat, sleep, train'. Print Edition | Subscribe