It’s been 18 months since ONE Featherweight MMA World Champion Tang Kai reached the division’s summit at ONE 160 in August 2022. Injuries have plagued the Chinese warrior since that defining moment, but he’s now ready to return as king.

The 28-year-old will meet former titleholder and ONE Interim Featherweight World Champion Thanh Le in a World Title unification bout this Friday, 1st March, at ONE 166: Qatar, and he’s looking to put his old foe down a second time to cement his status in the stacked weight bracket.

Getting back to competitive form has been an arduous battle for Tang, but he has used his time away to work on key areas of his fight game.

“Our new coaching team comes from Dagestan, Russia, and focuses more on simple and practical fighting styles,” he explained. 

“The seamless transition from striking to the ground is the strength of the Russian style of fighting, and I hope that the fans will be able to see a different me – a fully upgraded version.”

Le has been calling for a rematch with Tang ever since dropping the World Title to him at ONE 160. The pair were set to meet again at ONE Fight Night 12 last summer, but the Chinese titleholder needed more time to rehab his injuries.

As a result, ONE put an interim belt up for grabs, which Le claimed against Ilya Freymanov at ONE Fight Night 15 in October. 

The Vietnamese-American is known for his knockout power, but he showcased an evolved ground game that evening to submit his Russian foe via a first-round heel hook. 

Tang was, unsurprisingly, watching from the wings. And though he compliments his upcoming rival's game, he insists Le’s skills are no threat to him. 

“Thanh Le has rich fighting experience, so there are a lot of things I can learn from him. Last time out, he had a nice victory, and he proved that he has some hidden fighting skills that he had never shown before,” Tang stated.

“My preparations have always been comprehensive, and of course, I will not change my strategy because of a heel hook.”

With that said, Tang’s mission statement for ONE 166 is to make up for lost time. And with the new ground he’s broken in his training while away, the Sunkin International Fight Club standout predicts an early night in Qatar.

“I only want to focus on winning, and of course, the best way to win is to have an early finish,” he stated.

“Don’t blink. I’ll KO him very quickly.”