Xiong JingNan embodies the fighting spirit.
One of the best fighters outside of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for the past five years, Xiong is the only 125-pound Strawweight champion in ONE Championship history. More notably, she became China’s first major world titleholder when claiming said title with her fourth round technical knockout (punches) of Tiffany Teo at ONE: Kings of Courage in Jan. 2018.
“The Panda” (18-2) has been nearly flawless since then, defeating all comers in her division to defend her title seven times with her only loss coming in her double-champion attempt against Atomweight titlist, Angela Lee, in Oct. 2019. Xiong and Lee have gone on to have one of the most epic and historic rivalries in mixed martial arts (MMA) and in her last fight, Xiong took the 2-1 lead over Lee with a unanimous decision win in Oct. 2022.
Unfortunately for Xiong, she was met with immediate criticism after the bout with ONE Founder, Chatri Sityodtong, amongst the loudest of voices claiming Lee should have won. Xiong has always been passionate about her career, but a new fire was lit in post-fight interviews as she went off, calling the promotion biased against her and favoring Lee. Having had the year to reflect on things, the champion is only fueled by her detractors.
“When I look back to when I was 20 years old, maybe I would have fought with people online and I would also comment back at those who didn’t show respect for me,” Xiong told MMA Mania. “Now, I won’t do that because I’ve experienced lots of things. So, for me, maybe I only feel a little bit sad about the disrespect, but I won’t do anything about that.
“I think as I get older and older, I have lots of things to do,” she continued. “I’m not only focused on the disrespectful words and disrespectful actions. That’s not meaningful for me. I think the only meaningful things for me is to use it to push me and motivate me forward to improve myself.”
The aftermath of the Lee trilogy fight wasn’t the first time Xiong was treated in an arguably unfair manner considering her status within the promotion. Between the second and third bouts with the Atomweight champion, Lee, Sityodtong openly stated how he was unimpressed with Xiong’s title defenses and critiqued her abilities. Even in promotional instances, Lee was highlighted more than Xiong ahead of all three bouts and for a long period, Xiong’s win in the first fight was never added to ONE’s YouTube channel, unlike Lee’s win in the rematch.
Having done all she possibly can as the Strawweight champion, Xiong’s remaining goal is to be as active as possible for the time she has left in her career. Despite the questionable responses she’s gotten in recent years, she doesn’t intend to leave the promotion anytime soon.
“Yes, definitely,” Xiong responded when asked if she wants to finish her career in ONE. “I start in ONE Championship and I will finish in ONE Championship. If you say finish my career life, I feel a little bit sad about it because time is so fast.”
While MMA has always been her focus, Xiong will be taking on a new challenge for her next time out. The champion will return for a “special striking match” against the 24-year-old Muay Thai sensation, Nat “Wondergirl” Jaroonsak, at ONE Fight Night 14 in Kallang, Singapore on Sept. 13, 2023.
Essentially, the rules of the matchup will be kickboxing rules without kicks and the fighters will wear MMA gloves. For the experienced champion, Xiong, she’s excited to get her first opportunity to mix things up in ONE like some of her other roster members have in recent years.
“Wondergirl and I are friends,” Xiong said. “We know each other and we follow each other on social media. The first time I heard that my next fight I would fight with her, I was a little bit hesitant, but everyone knows that I won’t refuse all matches. So, I accepted that.
“She’s really young and keeps improving,” she continued. “All the techniques, you can see that. She just gets better, better, and better. In terms of age, maybe this is not a very nice matchup for me because she’s really young. But I think in a person’s life you have to keep challenging yourself so I have to accept this. I’m very excited and looking forward to use these totally new special rules to show my fans and the audience a totally new version of myself and my skills. I think we can finish this fight in a very fun way.”