2011 was a breakout year for 25 year old Eddie Ng who moved to Singapore to join Evolve MMA and fought for the first time in Asia at ONE Fighting Championship 1, defeating a Chinese opponent with a brutal one punch knock out.
Since his MMA career began back in 2007 he has taken things very slowly. Fighting only one time per year he has acquired a respectable 4-1 record but his focus has been on improving as a martial artist rather than testing himself repeatedly inside the cage.
Both Ng's parents are from Hong Kong and his Asian heritage and undeniable fighting ability are what made him such an attractive option for Evolve MMA, who are notoriously selective about who they invite onto their fight team.
He has now become one of the faces of ONE FC and his face will be familiar to anyone in Singapore at the moment because it is plastered all over public transport and billboards as the marketing campaign ahead of the March 31st show grinds into gear.
It has been an incredible 12 months for Ng, who is facing an as yet unnamed opponent on that card, and he is amazed to find himself in such a privileged position.
"If you had asked me a year ago where I thought I would be in 12 months time I would have said in a small little room about 4x4 metres, training with friends and local level fighters. I would never have even fathomed possible that I would be training with the likes of Shinya Aoki, Heath Sims and Attachai Fairtex etc on a daily basis, fighting in front of 7,000 people and seeing myself on posters all over town."
Ng's coaches include champions in BJJ, boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and MMA and they are all extremely excited about his potential. Although his opponent for ONE FC's March 31st card, which will be headlined by a light heavyweight fight between Melvin Manhoef and Renato Sobral, has yet to be confirmed I have heard rumours that matchmakers feel he is ready for a big step up in competition.
When I put this to Ng he is quick to point out that he has consistently faced more experienced opposition throughout his MMA career,
"For my first professional fight I fought a guy that had competed against UFC fighters Dan Hardy and Paul Daley, he had a total of 19 fights when we fought, my second opponent had a total of 14 fights. This is a trend that has been consistent throughout my career so far, I am used to fighting against much more experienced opponents.
Of course I would like to fight against opponents with a similar experience level to myself but if One FC offer me a more experienced fighter then I welcome the challenge with open arms. I train with the best team not just in Asia but for me, the world and I know that whoever the opponent is, they can't do anything that my instructors don't know about."
Eddie Ng vs. Yuan Chun Bo (via officialsherdog)
The first ONE FC event was televised by Media Corp Channel 5 , which is one of only a handful of domestic TV stations in Singapore meaning it is available to every home with an aerial. Ng says he really noticed the effect this exposure had in the aftermath of the delayed broadcast,
"After the One FC broadcast, I remember being stopped quite a few times by people asking if I was the same person that was on the TV! What surprised me was that men and women of all different ages watched the broadcast, typically I thought there would be a certain market for MMA but this was not the case and highlighted the growth of MMA here in Singapore!"
People in 24 Asian countries, including Hong Kong, will be watching the next ONE FC show because it will be shown on ESPN Star Sports and Ng says that having so much exposure in the country of his parent's birth is very important to him,
"I have family in Hong Kong and I am very excited that they are now able to watch my fights live. The ESPN Star Sports deal is huge news for all fighters because we all dream about fighting on the big stage where millions of fans at home can watch our fights. I was back in Hong Kong at the beginning of the year to visit my parents and some family, I absolutely love the place."
Ng arrived at Evolve MMA last year with a reputation as being primarily a BJJ fighter but he has been working hard on his striking. Part of this process has involved taking part in professional Muay Thai fights which he feels will help him to become a much more well rounded mixed martial artist,
'When you're in an environment where you can ONLY strike, then you have no choice but to start swinging otherwise it isn't going to be a very fun experience. I would like to compete more in Muay Thai in the future to develop my confidence further but also because I found it to be a lot of fun."
As well as famous mixed martial artists like Shinya Aoki he will also be rubbing shoulders with multiple BJJ world champions on a daily basis at Evolve MMA, it is all a far cry from the days when he first taught himself the submission game by studying videos he ordered from the internet,
"We recently had the legendary Renzo Gracie oversee our training and one of the top MMA coaches in the world Greg Jackson stop by to share some knowledge. These guys are amazing instructors and an absolute pleasure to be around. Evolve MMA also recently recruited former US Olympian Greco Roman Wrestler Heath Sims and NCAA division 1 wrestler Jake Butler who have shown myself and the rest of the Evolve Fight Team just how beautiful the art of wrestling truly is. Plus I get to work day in day out with Muay Thai and BJJ World Champion instructors like Attachai Fairtex, Muangfalek Kiatvichian, Zorobabel Moreira and Leandro Issa."
After spending much of his career at welterweight Ng will be making the drop down to 155 lbs. His only loss came to the highly experienced Joakim Engberg who is now Alistair Overeem's head trainer and he also has a win over Jason Ball who is now one of the starts of leading British promotion BAMMA.
With a proven track record of beating high calibre opponents on the increasingly competitive UK scene it is no surprise that ONE FC recognized Ng's potential and signed him up instantly after he had moved to Singapore. Joining a first class fight team like Evolve MMA should help to accelerate his development but Ng still favours the patient approach which has served him so well in his career to date,
"I want to stay active in competition as much as possible in 2012 but ultimately I just want to keep improving every single day as a martial artist. Every time I fight I want to be a different fighter than the previous showing, I don't want to fight often but without really showing any improvement but the learning process is so much faster now that I have access to world class instruction every single day."
His next chance to showcase that improvement will come on March 31st at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on the main card of ONE FC 3. Ng might be content to take things slowly but it seems inevitable that 2012 will be the first year of his career in which he fights more than once and all that patience starts to translate into serious mainstream success.