MMA: Tiffany Teo ready to tackle Xiong Jingnan

Singapore's Tiffany Teo (in black dress) is putting her unbeaten professional record on the line tomorrow night, when she fights China's Xiong Jingnan. With them is One Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
Singapore's Tiffany Teo (in black dress) is putting her unbeaten professional record on the line tomorrow night, when she fights China's Xiong Jingnan. With them is One Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE MAVEN

Unassuming Singaporean wants to do the talking in the cage in Jakarta in world-title bid

Her face was grim, unsmiling - menacing even - as she sat in front of a packed room of about 250 journalists, photographers and videographers at the Fairmont Jakarta yesterday.

Yet, when mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Tiffany Teo faced the media in small groups later, she was all smiles and cheery, obliging every request for a photograph.

"I kind of have a resting b**** face, so when I don't smile, I look like that," the 27-year-old Singaporean said with a laugh.

A school choir member, a therapist for children with special needs and now a tattooed, but soft-spoken warrior.

Teo is a walking contradiction who may have finally found her place in the world of MMA, where traditional codes like jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu are all combined to deadly effect.

Just ask the likes of Rebecca Heintzman or Walaa Abbas or Pooja Tomar, whom she had pummelled to compile a perfect professional record of seven wins and no losses. Next on that list is China's Xiong Jingnan, with both women due to face off for the inaugural One Championship women's (52.3-56.7kg) strawweight belt at the Jakarta Convention Centre tomorrow.

Teo said: "I have been working on a game plan (against Xiong) for about two weeks, I am very confident (that I'd win)."

Her coach Luke Adams said: "Tiffany is strong on the ground and in grappling, but she is not behind Xiong in striking.

"I feel that Tiffany has more tools to get the win on Saturday, and she can go five rounds, easy.

"She brings it when she is on the big stage, and I have a lot of confidence that this is just the beginning for Tiffany."

Xiong, in a pink suit and with matching highlights in her hair, cut a bubbly and confident figure during the press conference.

She said: "I have a lot of respect for my opponents, and I have a lot of respect for Tiffany.

"I will let my actions do the talking on Saturday. I want to show the world the strength of China.

"I am excited and I am ready."

The Singaporean, in contrast, seemed less confident in her initial address but later explained: "I am kind of an introvert and I don't really like giving speeches."

While fighters have acknowledged their fear of being locked up in a cage to duel with another highly skilled martial artist, Teo feels at home when she steps into the arena.

"I am more comfortable going into the cage than being in front of an audience of people and giving a speech," she said.

She will return to her comfort zone tomorrow night and, perhaps, by the end of the evening, she will add another moniker to her name - a world champion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Teo ready to tackle Xiong'. Print Edition | Subscribe