MANILA, Philippines -- A challenger has emerged for former ONE world heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, in the form of rising star Kang Ji Won of South Korea.
Kang, who goes by the moniker "Mighty Warrior," has rapidly built a reputation as an upset-machine in ONE Championship. Since joining the promotion, the 26-year-old has compiled two stunning finishes in the Circle, where he stopped highly regarded Iranian wrestlers Mehdi Barghi and Amir Aliakbari.
Kang entered these matchups as the underdog, but defied the odds and impressed with his ability to overcome adversity. "Mighty Warrior" came back from being down early in both fights to score scintillating stoppages, earning a throng of fans in the process.
While he has put the entire ONE heavyweight division on notice, Kang has his eyes set on one particular opponent.
"The next one on my list would be Brandon Vera," he declared in a recent interview with South China Morning Post.
"He's a former champion, but right now, looking at him, I believe that he's old," he added. "He came from the UFC, but now, I don't think he's the same anymore."
"I really think that I have a good chance in that fight."
Vera ruled ONE Championship's heavyweight division from December 2014 until April this year, when he was stopped by India's Arjan Bhullar at ONE Championship: Dangal.
When Bhullar was asked who he thought deserved the first crack at the belt, the Indian singled out Kang -- a prospect that thrilled "Mighty Warrior."
"As soon as he became the champion, right there in that circle, in the post-fight interview, he called me out. I didn't call him out, he called me out. I think that's enough reason for me to get a title shot," said Kang.
Kang is currently on the back end of recovering from a few injuries he sustained in his last fight against Aliakbari. But the 26-year-old said he's ready to spring up to any challenge at a moment's notice.
And he is hopeful that Vera, who has not fought since his loss in April, will be willing to fight him.
"To Brandon Vera, I really respect you. I really look up to you as a fighter. I believe that our fight will be very explosive and exciting, a very exciting fight that the fans will love. So I'll make sure that I prepare well and I'll be there," he said.
"I'm ready even now. If ONE Championship calls me now, I'll run over there," he stressed.