Teenage kickboxing prodigy Zhang Peimian is eager to continue his rise toward the strawweight elite.
The 18-year-old striker – who knocked out former ONE World Title challenger Josh Tonna in his debut earlier this year – will return against Aslanbek Zikreev on the main card of "ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash" on July 22.
Zikreev is the No. 2-ranked strawweight muay Thai contender, and although this is a kickboxing contest, the Chinese phenom knows a victory over the 26-year-old would cement him as a threat in both striking sports.
"Zikreev ranks second (in muay Thai), with comprehensive skills and flexible footwork," Zhang said. "He has advantages in height, weight, and age, but I won't be under pressure. I just want to fight the best opponents. I can't wait. I have the confidence to beat him and earn a (ONE strawweight kickboxing) world title shot."
Despite his youth, the Shengli Fight Club representative has posted an impressive 15-1-1 professional record and lived up to the hype with his second-round KO of Tonna at "ONE: Lights Out" in March.
It was a remarkable performance from "Fighting Rooster," especially considering that Tonna has faced the top strikers in ONE, including recently retired ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Champion Sam-A Gaiyanghadao.
With that in mind, the teenage star believes he should challenge for the now-vacant belt if he gets past Zikreev at ONE 159.
"If I win this match, I am very happy to arrange to fight for the world championship – and it should be very soon," Zhang said. "Although I'm young, I don't have to wait when I am already strong."
Zhang thinks he is faster, stronger than Aslanbek Zikreev
Zhang knows that Aslanbek Zikreev will be a tough test, but he is ready to meet the challenge head-on.
The teen's confidence is sky-high, and he expects a dominant victory in their pivotal strawweight kickboxing clash at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
"Zikreev's speed is not as fast as mine," Zhang said. "I will beat him with my pace and press him with high-frequency punches and legs.
"He has strength, but I have more strength, and the result of the fight will be convincing."
As the contest approaches, Zhang is working hard at Tiger Muay Thai to prepare, though he has not made any drastic changes for this matchup with Zikreev.
Polishing his existing tools – while getting faster, stronger, and more powerful – the Chinese athlete is certain that he can outwork the Russian striker and become a breakout star in the strawweight kickboxing division.
"After the last match (against Tonna), I still focused on basic training like before," Zhang added. "The solid basic skills are of great help to my striking style. My physical fitness, heavy hitting, and body conditioning have all improved.
"The gameplan is still based on my usual fighting style. I am ready to perform at any time, and I will adjust my tactics quickly in the circle. I will give an impressive performance and challenge for the world championship."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.