Filipino-Australian bantamweight sensation Reece McLaren burst onto the scene in ONE Championship after joining the promotion in 2015. He has since come away with two highly-impressive victories over top caliber opponents inside the ONE Championship cage which has earned him a shot at ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes.
McLaren (9-3) is set to challenge reigning champion Fernandes (19-3) in the co-main event of ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION which takes place Friday, 2 December at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. The 25-year-old McLaren says he draws inspiration from another Filipino warrior who recently became an MMA world champion.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Baguio City’s Eduard “Landslide” Folayang shocked the world with a scintillating technical knockout victory over Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki to capture the ONE Lightweight World Championship. McLaren says the win has motivated him in training for his upcoming title shot against Fernandes.
“I saw the Eduard [Folayang] fight and I drew a lot of inspiration from it. Another fellow Filipino winning a world title shows that it can be done,” said McLaren.
“Watching the fight was super exciting. I was on the edge of my seat. It was such a massive opportunity for him and to see him walk away with the victory was just so inspirational.”
As talented as McLaren is however, the Brazilian Fernandes is riding an 11-fight win streak and is making the fifth defense of his ONE Championship title so he won’t be taken lightly. And just like Folayang did against Aoki, McLaren will also be entering this fight against Fernandes as the prohibitive underdog.
Good thing for McLaren, the role he plays in all of this doesn’t seem to bother him one bit.
“Being labeled the favorite or the underdog doesn’t really matter to me. I’m going to put a hundred percent into the work and hope it shows,” said McLaren.
McLaren began his ONE Championship career with an upset victory over Filipino warrior and fan-favorite, Mark Striegl. He then followed that win up with another upset victory over top Tajikistan prospect Muin Gafurov.
That’s why going up against Fernandes, McLaren feels right in his element.
“I find no difference between being the favorite or the underdog. Everyone loves the underdog story and they love it when he wins, so give me that label and I’ll run with it,” said McLaren.
“An upset to me is the man who is not meant to win, wins.”
While Fernandes is gunning for his fifth straight successful title defense, McLaren aims at a different kind of streak. He goes for his third straight upset. If McLaren can do that, then the world is in the palm of his hands.
“I’m confident I can get this win because I have Australia and the Philippines supporting me,” said McLaren. “Bibiano, it is such an honor to be facing you. I respect you a lot, but this is going to be a changing of the guard.”