Former ONE world title challenger and current No. 5-ranked flyweight MMA contender Reece "Lightning" McLaren is beaming with confidence ahead of his next fight.
On June 3, the Australian grappling specialist will face streaking Chinese upstart "The Hunter" Xie Wei in a pivotal contest at "ONE 158: Tawanchai vs. Larsen," and he plans to send a message with a dominant performance at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Still, McLaren isn't taking Xie lightly.
The 30-year-old veteran is prepared to battle an aggressive striker who wants to take his place in the rankings, and he can't wait to throw down with that type of opponent.
"His hands, his hands (are dangerous)," McLaren told ONE Championship. "He looks neat. He looks pretty fearless, to be honest. He looks like he stands in the pocket and trains, so it's good.
"Xie Wei, what is he on, a three-fight win streak? He's definitely surging. I'm excited about the matchup. It's been a long time coming. I can't wait, man."
Indeed, Xie appears to be a formidable foe.
The 25-year-old Chinese athlete has won eight of his last nine bouts in ONE Championship, with every single victory coming by knockout.
That resume makes "The Hunter" a threat to the entire flyweight division, but McLaren has an unwavering belief in his own abilities. He expects to have his way in this clash between striker and grappler – and he plans to finish the fight once it hits the ground.
"I think I'll just do whatever I want, to be honest," he said. "Sit down judges, you ain't going to be needed. I see not just weakness in his game, but in just about everyone's game. Jiu-jitsu, baby."
There's obviously a lot at stake here, and McLaren knows it.
In fact, the Gold Coast resident feels that a resounding victory over Xie should be enough to earn a crack at reigning ONE flyweight world champion Adriano Moraes.
"I don't see anyone in the top five that (Moraes) hasn't fought already," McLaren added. "So I'm the one name he hasn't fought.
"I'm not here to stand in no line if they want to give me the opportunity to call anyone out. I'm definitely going to be calling out the champ."
McLaren polishing striking with legendary John Wayne Parr
With eight submissions in 14 career victories, McLaren has achieved his greatest MMA success with a black belt-level ground game.
However, the Australian considers himself a complete fighter, and he's taking massive steps to level up his striking under the tutelage of an iconic compatriot.
That compatriot is muay Thai legend and former ONE Championship superstar John Wayne Parr, who now teaches McLaren at Boonchu Muay Thai Gym in their home nation.
"I've known Wayne for many years," McLaren said. "Obviously, he's who he is, and obviously, I've been a big fan. You know, things kind of ran full circle, and now I'm training out of there full-time. So yeah, I've been welcomed into the Boonchu family, and I'm very proud to call myself now a fighter from Boonchu.”
The 46-year-old Parr officially retired from professional competition following his memorable super-fight against former ONE lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang at ONE X in March.
While "The Gunslinger" fell by unanimous decision, he thrilled the fans in a wild third round and capped off an incredible career that spanned nearly three decades of excellence.
McLaren watched with a tinge of sadness as Parr bid a tearful farewell and left his gloves at the center of the ONE circle, but he also knew the moment would lead to a huge opportunity.
"Man, I had very, very mixed emotions," he added. "I think it was exciting for me, selfishly, because now I have Wayne as my coach and pad holder and everything. It was such a hard one.
"He's such a happy-go-lucky guy, you know, you catch that vibe really easily."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.