The first Singaporean to be signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Royston Wee won his debut fight against Filipino Dave Galera in front of the home crowd at the inaugural UFC Singapore event held at Marina Bay Sands on 4 January.
After a short break to recuperate, the 27-year-old Impact MMA-fighter got back into training and will be back in the UFC cage in Macau on 23 August.
Facing China’s Yao Zhikui in a bantamweight bout, this will be the biggest fight of their career as Yao makes his UFC debut.
Both of them met previously at the tryouts for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) China, a mixed martial arts (MMA) reality television series by the UFC. Yao was selected while Wee was picked as a reserve (for the featherweight class), but Wee was put straight into UFC later.
Denied the chance then to do combat with the field of TUF fighters, this UFC fight will allow Wee to prove himself. Over the past six months, he has been working to make himself a more all-rounded fighter. Yao has a wrestling background, and Wee is aware that he cannot rely on his strengths in takedowns and ground control for which he is known.
“I believe I have fine-tuned and upgraded every aspect of my game since January. Yao is going to be quite a different fight from Galera. I've seen his fights and we have a plan for him, but I know he's also developing and adapting, so we are ready for a lot of different scenarios,” Wee said of his strategy.
Photo: Cheryl Tay for Yahoo
With the fight held away from home, there is definitely a lot less pressure. His debut fight drew media attention and he found it overwhelming.
“The media focus was very intense in my last fight right here in Singapore when I was being touted as ‘the first Singaporean UFC fighter’. Now my opponent will be seen as the ‘hometown’ fighter so the pressure’s off me. All I need to focus on is my game; I still want to win for my supporters in Singapore, whether I am fighting here or not,” Wee said.
It took a while for him to get used to "being known”, but Wee makes sure that he remains grounded. “I am pretty much the same person that I’ve always been. I've always been mindful of my behaviour because I cannot risk giving MMA fighters, my gym or the whole sport a bad name. I am grateful for the opportunities I have and I also represent several sponsors now,” he stated.
Being the first Singaporean signed to the UFC has definitely raised the bar for the MMA game here, and people are beginning to see that being a professional MMA fighter can be a potential career. Knowing this, Wee hopes to inspire more to take up the sport, but he also has words of advice.
Photo: Cheryl Tay for Yahoo
“It's still a very tough road for all the fighters out there. It's not just a matter of training to become tough, but getting fights, getting decent contracts, getting sponsors and earning enough to get by while you wait for a decent fight purse.
“All these can be very tough and sometimes even demoralising. I hope my own journey can help keep aspiring fighters motivated and to have something to look forward to. The sport is still growing, and I am proud to be doing my part. Breaking into the UFC is a super opportunity.
“Let’s not forget the others before me too; pioneers like my coach Bruce who fought long before MMA was known, with little pay and without the facilities and support that I have today.
“To aspiring fighters, if there is one thing I can say, it is this: When you fight, keep your chin down. Everywhere else, keep your chin up.”
Cheryl Tay first established herself in the world of cars and motorsports. A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl is one of the few female motoring journalists in Singapore and writes for prominent titles locally and internationally. She is also a huge fitness freak and enjoys working out as much as she does writing about fitness. More of her at www.cheryltay.sg or @cheryltay11 on Instagram.