Reece “Lightning” McLaren is no stranger to facing elite opposition as he already knows he can compete at the highest level.
After all, McLaren nearly defeated Bibiano Fernandes for the ONE Bantamweight World Championship in December 2016, ultimately losing by a razor-thin split decision.
Last November on the undercard of ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila, Philippines, McLaren recreated himself as a flyweight, making his presence felt in the weight class immediately against top contender Anatpong Bunrad.
With a mere eight seconds remaining in the very first round, McLaren caught Bunrad in an anaconda choke and then transitioned into a D’arce choke to force the tap.
Based on the impressive outcome of his flyweight debut against Bunrad, McLaren was awarded with a second golden opportunity.
McLaren will challenge Adriano Moraes for the ONE Flyweight World Championship in the headlining bout of ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, which is set to take place at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 9 March.
Lightning has struck twice for the 26-year-old Filipino-Australian dynamo, and this time he intends to take full advantage of it.
“You do not get too many bites at an apple, and I am getting a second bite here,” he said. “It is an opportunity that is absolutely amazing. I am grabbing it with both hands and leaving no stone unturned.”
According to McLaren, the experience that he now has going five rounds against one of the greatest bantamweights in the world today will be key when he stands opposite Moraes inside the ONE Championship cage on 9 March.
“I feel like a more complete martial artist this time round. I was kind of young in my career when I faced Bibiano. Even though it is only three bouts ago, the progression I have made since then, I have hit some leaps and bounds in skills and awareness,” he stated.
McLaren pointed out that transferring to flyweight was the best decision that he has ever made for his professional career as the weight class is closer fit to his natural body size.
“Making bantamweight was may be a bit too easy. Basically, I was eating pretty much whatever I wanted and was on weight, so it made sense to restrict what I was eating a little and go down if I could. And obviously, I could! You need to find the most optimal place for yourself, and I think this is it. My weight felt good, my body felt good. Everything felt just prime,” he bared.
“I felt really strong. Well, I do not know if I felt strong, or the other guy just felt lighter because I am used to the bigger guys. I have always been a small bantamweight, so going down a division where I am sizable, or at least equal in size, felt like a new experience,” McLaren further explained.
In preparation for his second shot at a coveted world title, McLaren divulged that he trained with fellow countryman and two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, who is slated to take on Fernandes for his title at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand 24 March.
“I really like working with him and the team. Master Fari [Salievski] is an amazing coach. They flew me down, put me up, and looked after me real well. It gave me heaps of motivation. Martin is so disciplined, and he is such a nice dude. If that happens again in the future, I am down,” he shared.
McLaren shows admiration for Moraes ahead of their scheduled five-round championship clash, but when it is time to duke it out, it will be down to business.
“Now, I can say I have competed against the two greatest Brazilians to have competed in the martial arts scene. I am very honored,” he asserted. “His jiu-jitsu is phenomenal, and his striking is not weak. If there is any weakness, it might be bridging the gaps between the different martial arts. I think I bridge them better.”
While McLaren recognizes and respects the dangers that the Brazilian champion poses, he will not be stunned by the occasion.
“It is the best two flyweights that are entering their primes. It is the perfect time to make the match,” he expounded. “I feel like I have all the skills to match anyone in the world. I am just pumped. I cannot wait.”
As he reaches the final stretch of his training camp, McLaren vows to make the most of the second chance that he has been granted at becoming a world champion in the sport.
“It is all going full-blast ahead. You do what you have to do for these opportunities,” he ended.