This Friday will be a mix of emotion, nerves and determination for Tial Thang.
“The Dragon Leg” will return to his home country of Myanmar for the first time in more than a decade to make his professional MMA debut against Cambodia’s Rin Saroth on the main card of ONE Championship’s “Reign of Valor” event.
He brings with him plenty of seasoning as an amateur (3-3) and has honed his skills with some elite training partners.
After working with Myanmar’s most famous son, “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang for the past two years, the man from Hakha believes he has what it takes to win the 68-kilogram catchweight bout in astonishing fashion.
“I think this fight is going to end quickly,” he says.
“No disrespect to Saroth, but I am a better fighter and I have the capability of finishing this fight in the early rounds.”
Finding the Finish
With three victories under his belt in the amateur ranks, Tial Thang feels confident to switch from grappling to striking depending on his opponent’s weaknesses.
“I am very aggressive, go forward, and show up to fight,” he says.
His opponent is a formidable striker with a 110-22 record in the Cambodian martial art of Kun Khmer, which he used to power him to an impressive stoppage win against Mario Satya Wirawan last July.
Saroth likewise has a submission victory in ONE Championship, but Tial Thang believes he has a weakness that can be exploited.
Exploiting Weak Spots
“He is good at everything, but his grappling is his biggest weakness,” he says. “He has a strong right hand, but other than that, I’m not worried about anything.”
“The Dragon Leg” has a long history as a martial artist. He started practicing wrestling when he was a boy growing up in Myanmar’s mountainous Chin state.
He continued his training in the United States, but he has stepped up a gear ahead of his homecoming this Friday night.
Tial Thang has moved away from his young family and trained intensely to prepare for the clash at Florida’s Hard Knocks 365.
School of Hard Knocks
Now under the guidance of elite kickboxing coach Henri Hooft alongside two-division champion Aung La N Sang, his striking game has been elevated to a new level.
His new gym has also given him access to a goldmine of information from seasoned professionals, not least the “The Burmese Python,” who has given him plenty of encouragement.
“He said be myself, go out there, and fight hard,” Tial Thang said.
Alongside the likes of Aung La N Sang and Phoe Thaw, a win for Tial Thang on home soil could also pave the way for another local star for the thousands of Chin people living in the United States and Myanmar.
“It’s such an honor and blessing for me to fight in front of my people. I can’t wait to put on a very entertaining fight for them,” he says.