Following a highly-successful 2018 run that saw him win three straight in ONE Super Series action, Chinese Muay Thai star Han Zi Zao now has his sights set on world championship gold.
The 23-year old gets his chance when he takes on Thai legend Nong-O Gaiyanghadao for the inaugural ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Championship in the main event of ONE: CLASH OF LEGENDS on Saturday, 16 February in Bangkok, Thailand.
The world title opportunity, Han believes, represents all the work that he has put in.
“I will seize this opportunity to win the gold belt. It is the best reward for all my work,” he told ONE Championship .
Being on the highest stage of competition entails even more hard work and more sacrifices, as Han came to find after having to put Chinese New Year plans on hold in order to prepare for his upcoming test.
The former Top King Muay Thai champion was planning on heading back home for the holidays.
“When we were talking on the phone [with ONE officials], it was like my heart was on a roller coaster,” he recalled. “I brought it up, ‘Chinese New Year is near.’ ‘Any problem?’ they replied. ‘No problem,’ I said.”
“He apologized because he had forgotten about it, but I said it was fine because the match is more important,” Han continued.
All in all a fair trade-off, considering that Han gets to share the ring with someone that he has looked up to since he was a young, aspiring martial artist.
“I’ve heard about Nong-O since I was a kid. He is a legend of the Muay Thai world,” Han shared. “I grew up watching his matches. Naturally, he became one of my idols because I worship all the legendary figures in this field.”
Making the encounter all the more special for Han is the fact that when he steps to one of his idols, the most prestigious prize in the game will be on the line.
“Now, I finally have a chance to fight with him and, even better, I will challenge for the gold belt. This is such an honor for me!"
More than just bringing home a world title, Han is out to make a name for himself at the expense of the Thai legend.
“I admire and respect you very much, but I have to point out that your era is about to end,” Han expressed. “I will take your place and be the new legend of Muay Thai.”