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Tang Kai expects to become new featherweight king at ONE 160: 'Thanh Le, you're old'

The confident Chinese rising star will carry a long winning streak into his world title challenge of Le at ONE 160.

Tang Kai (14-2) has no doubt that he is the future of the featherweight MMA division.

The 26-year-old Chinese star will challenge Thanh Le (13-2) for the ONE featherweight world title at "ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II" on Friday, August 26 – and that's when he believes the new era will begin.

Despite Le's dominant run of five straight knockouts since he entered ONE Championship, Tang is riding his own six-fight winning streak in the organization, including four highlight-reel knockouts.

And after assessing his opponent's overall game, the No. 1 contender expects to gain the upper hand in this showdown at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

"I think Thanh Le's weakness is that he doesn't fight," Tang said. "He was not hit in ONE Championship before, but when I meet him, I just have to punch him, and he will be defeated.

"My reading (of the fight) and skills are better than his. I am better at seizing opportunities. I don't think this game will go to a decision. I think I'll KO him."

At 36, Le is a whole decade older than Tang, and the latter sees this difference as a significant factor in his favor.

In fact, the Chinese rising star thinks the clock is ticking on the reigning featherweight king's mental and physical ability to dominate the division, and he plans to expose those weaknesses on August 26.

"He is now approaching the end of his career," Tang said. "I think he's 36 or 37 years old now, and he has a family and kids. I don't think he will focus on the game and training. But I am still very young. I am 100 percent committed. 

"Thanh Le, you're old. It's time to retire. I'll be the new king of the featherweight division."

Tang motivated by family, aims to make history

The road to the top in MMA is not easy. It requires a lot of sacrifice – something Tang knows well. However, the Sunkin International Fight Club representative has continued to achieve success because he's motivated to help his loved ones back in China.

And after putting together an impressive nine-fight winning streak overall, he's just one victory away from earning World Title gold on the global stage.

"My family is my motivation because I want to make a better life for them," Tang said. "Since practicing fighting, I've sacrificed time with my family. I didn't go home for New Year's Eve, and I didn't see my family for five or six years.

"No matter how much I have sacrificed, how much I have given, how many difficulties I have encountered, when I win the next match and win the world championship, I will feel that all my sacrifices and contributions were worth it."

But while the featherweight's biggest inspiration comes from others, he also wants to etch his own name into the record books.

The 26-year-old watched ONE superstar Xiong Jing Nan become the first women's Chinese MMA World Champion back in 2018, and he's now hoping to follow suit, earn the biggest prize in the sport, and make history.

"I'm the first Chinese male to challenge for the gold belt," Tang said. "This is both pressure and motivation for me. I'm going to make history and let the world know my name. I'm Tang Kai from China!"

This story first published at ONEFC.com.