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ONE's Bokang Masunyane vows to bounce back from first loss: 'I'm here with a different fire'

After his first career loss, the No. 2-ranked strawweight plans to dominate No. 3-ranked Hiroba Minowa at ONE 159.
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Bokang Masunyane (8-1) is no stranger to adversity, and he's fired up to return with a bang following his first career MMA defeat.

Nicknamed "Little Giant" because of his ability to overcome any challenge regardless of its size, the No. 2-ranked strawweight wants to prove he belongs in the World Title conversation when he faces No. 3-ranked Hiroba Minowa (13-3) at "ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash" on July 22.

Despite his submission loss to No. 1-ranked Jarred Brooks in April, Masunyane didn't hesitate to accept this fight against the Japanese standout, preferring to face the division's elite rather than build back up slowly.

"For me, it's always wanting to fight the best fighters in the world," Masunyane explained. "And ONE Championship has got the best strawweight fighters in the world. I'm pleased that they gave me someone within the top five, so I can still claim my ranking in the right way.

"I'm here to prove to my division that I am the best in the world. I will prove to the rest of the world watching ONE Championship that I am here to stay. I'm here to become a world champion."

While the South African is hungry to redeem himself, he also holds Minowa in high regard.

He knows the former Shooto Champion can compete in any range, and he's preparing for a variety of potential scenarios in their highly anticipated showdown.

At the same time, Masunyane believes his new resolve – combined with his world-class skills and athleticism – will be too much for the Japanese star to handle.

"I think Minowa is actually very well-rounded overall," Masunyane said. "Some of his fights I've seen him shoot for takedowns I've seen him go for submissions, I've seen him throw hands – real good hands – so he's very well rounded. I believe his ground game is his strongest asset, but as much as I have respect for him, I don't think he's got the tools or what it takes to beat me. 

"I'll do whatever it takes to win. I am going to give a very dominant performance to show the division that I'm here to stay. I'm here with a different fire fighting against Minowa."

Masunyane has leveled up from defeat

Now 8-1 overall in professional mixed martial arts, Masunyane's lone blemish at the hands of Brooks was tough to take.

But with some time and perspective, "Little Giant" now sees the bigger picture. He's no longer dwelling on the negatives, instead choosing to focus on the positives of his situation. 

"It was a hard pill for me to swallow having my first loss," the South African said. "It's something I go over in my head and understand that I don't want to happen again.

"But for me, even though I had that loss, I had to realize what blessings I have on me. The fact that with COVID and everything that was happening, I was still blessed enough to be able to travel to another country and still be able to do what I love, when there are people that have lost jobs and everything."

The defeat also highlighted some faults in Masunyane's preparation, but at the same time, it gave him the necessary push to address them so he can come back stronger.

Most importantly, the 28-year-old realized there were some areas of his training that didn't match his goals.

And as he prepares to face Minowa at ONE 159, he feels like everything is perfectly aligned to help him achieve success. 

"That loss gave me an extra drive in training," Masunyane added. "I've even working even harder, so this is probably going to be the best shape I've ever been in leading up to a fight. 

"That loss has also given me a lesson to learn about my body more. And yeah, I feel very good. I started eating clean. I got a dietitian for this camp. Actually, I'm almost on weight now with the change of diet and everything, and I feel hydrated. In order to be a champion, you have to live like one. And that's what I started doing."

This story first published at ONEFC.com.