Nicknamed the “Soul Crusher”, Singaporean Tiffany Teo is ONE Championship’s latest signing in its women’s division. We speak to the 26-year-old fighter ahead of her debut for the promotion at ONE: Defending Honor.
By Daniel Loy
Tiffany Teo’s late start in Taekwando at age 19 didn’t deter her from rapidly expanding her martial arts skillset and becoming a potential titleholder in the MMA world.
You made your professional MMA debut in February this year and have notched three wins since. Talk us through the feelings you faced at your first fight.
Honestly, I expected myself to be really nervous for my first fight. It took me by surprise when I ended up feeling pretty chill and composed about the whole thing. I guess because I was sure I did everything that I could do to prepare for the fight, it made me confident and prepared to take on whatever my opponent had for me.
Did you imagine that you would come this far in the sport?
When I first started martial arts, I did not intend to compete at a professional level. I thought the best I could do would be a few local amateur matches. ONE Championship saw my Full Metal Dojo Fight and felt like I had a lot of potential so they reached out to my head coach, Arvind Lalwani, who then informed me. I was very surprised but also honored.
How did your family take to the news that you were becoming a professional MMA fighter?
My parents were pretty supportive when I first started doing martial arts but that was because it was just a hobby back then. When I started to get serious about pursuing it and made the gradual transition, they still showed their support, though I could tell they had their concerns and reservation.
Who do you look up to in the MMA world?
I draw inspiration from many people, such as my coaches and teammates. I also admire notable fighters like MMA champion Cris Cyborg and Olympic boxer Claressa Shields.
Besides being in peak physical condition, what else has MMA taught you?
Patience, for sure. I work part-time as a therapist for kids with special needs, and this has helped me with those who are particularly low-functioning.
Having picked up MMA disciplines like Muay Thai and Grappling not too long ago, do you have tips for people who are iffy about picking up the sport?
My advice is to give it a try for two weeks to one month. You’ll probably be very lost at the start because everything is so new. Mastering MMA is like figuring out a world map. Each discipline is like a different part of the map and you need to try all of them before understanding the big picture. Get the foundations right, and if you don’t like MMA at the end of the day, try other things, don’t force yourself.
What do you hope to see in the future of MMA, whether in Singapore, Asia or on a global scale?
Women in MMA is still at its infancy in Singapore and Asia. I hope to see more female fighters stepping up and hopefully more weight classes in the female division. It would be an amazing honor if I can help pave the way for future female fighters and show that MMA is not just a sport for boys.
Given that professional MMA isn’t exactly a lifelong career, where do you see yourself after you’ve hung up your gloves?
I majored in psychology and was working as a research coordinator before getting into amateur boxing and pro MMA. I have plans to pursue further studies in psychology, but not right now. There’s no rush.
ONE: Defending Honor will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on November 11th. We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets to this fight night; simply fill up the form below for a chance to win! Entries close Monday, November 7th 2016.
Contest closed! Winners will be notified via email.
This interview has been edited and condensed.