Ariel Sexton may already have fought for a ONE world title, had he not been plagued by a recent spate of injuries.
The 11-3 lightweight contender defeated Eddie Ng in May 2015, but his progress was halted when he needed surgery to fix a broken arm.
He eventually returned 13 months later to beat Roger Huerta via third-round TKO in an exciting, back-and-forth contest. But, once again, injury struck.
“When I faced Roger Huerta, he cracked the orbital bone in my eye in the first round,” he told ONE Championship.
“My strategy was to use my jiu-jitsu, but he is a scrapper. He is a brawler. So as soon as he cracked my orbital in the first round, I went into brawl mode. My face went numb, and I just started brawling with him.
“After the match, I won, and I got my face checked out. The doctor said it could get worse, so I had to wait six months.”
Things went from bad to worse for Sexton, as he suffered a bad knee injury that forced him out of action for the entirety of 2017. But now, fully recovered, Sexton is ready to return and stake his claim for a shot at the ONE Lightweight World Title.
His comeback bout will see him face off against Malaysia’s Ev Ting (14-4) at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD on Friday, 23 February in Yangon, Myanmar.
It’s a test he says he’ll relish, as he takes on a fellow title contender in a bout with real significance in the ONE lightweight division.
“I am always expecting the best, and that is what I am getting now – the best,” he said.
“I know he is a top-level guy. He is a short, stocky brawler. He has a wicked guillotine choke. He likes to kick to the head. I have to respect him, and I have to train for the worst. I always have to train for the worst.
“For me, I am a forward-pressuring martial artist. I am going to push the pace, and I am going to bring it to him like he has never felt anyone bring it to him before. That is going to show something to Ev Ting. I am a grappler, but I can also stand. I consider myself being very well-rounded, and wherever it goes, I am ready to go there.”
The New York-based submission specialist says he’s ready to show his full skillset after years of being held back by injuries.
“The reason why you have not seen me in the ONE cage is because of injuries,” he stated.
“That is why this bout is so important for me. I am going to win, but I do not want to get injured because I want to be more active. I want to do three bouts this year. That is the idea.”
Over and above that plan, however, is his desire to wear ONE Championship gold, and victory against Ting will move him one big step closer to that goal as he looks to earn a shot at reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen later this year.
“Part of the reason why I am in ONE Championship is because I want a title shot,” declared Sexton.
“I am not in this just to compete. I want to get a world title. The world title will last forever. Money comes and goes.
“I just want the opportunity. Sacrifice is what it comes down to, and I have sacrificed a lot. Fans want to see electrifying matches, and every single thing I have done in my entire life has been electrifying.”
One more electrifying performance from Sexton might just be enough to see him challenge for the belt.