McLaren looks to exemplify Filipino warrior’s heart in next ONE FC bout

Nissi Icasiano
McLaren looks to exemplify Filipino warrior’s heart in next ONE FC bout
Reece McLaren showed what he could do on 8 days notice against Mark Striegl. Now he'll show what he can do with a full training camp against Muin Gafurov on April 15

MANILA, Philippines –  “Who is Reece McLaren?” That was the question of the night during ONE Championship’s “Spirit of Champions” fight week when he surfaced as Jordan Lucas’ late replacement to face Filipino-American sensation Mark Striegl. 

Striegl was supposed to have an easy night against a relatively-unknown Australian fighter entering a high-profile bout on 8 days notice, but McLaren begged to disagree and educated everyone about who he is and what he is capable of. 

McLaren pulled off a major upset in his ONE Championship debut by submitting Striegl with a rear-naked choke in the aforementioned event’s co-headliner this past December.

Showcasing his never-say-die attitude, McLaren overcame a series of takedowns and a second-round knockdown against the highly-favored Striegl, but he methodically chipped away with stinging leg kicks. 

As his counterpart appeared to lose steam in the final frame, McLaren countered a weary takedown attempt with solid elbows before he advanced to Striegl’s back to latch on the fight-ending choke at the 3:33 mark of the third round.

After his impressive conquest of Striegl, the thousands inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena were instantly introduced to the name of Reece McLaren. 

However, what actually shocked an additional number of Pinoy fight fans was the fact that he also had Filipino heritage like Striegl. 

The 24-year-old native of Gold Coast, Queensland revealed that his father, whom he never met while growing up, was Filipino. 

Even without the formal orientation to the culture of his father’s country, McLaren admitted that he always feels the sense of pride about his Filipino lineage.

“My father is actually Filipino. However, I have never met him and never grew up with any Filipino culture. But I have always told people I am half-Filipino. You can say that I’m Pinoy proud,” he told Rappler. 

Although ONE Championship gave him minimal time to prepare for Striegl, McLaren accepted the challenge because this was his chance to set foot on Philippine soil.

“I had always wanted to come to the Philippines and Manila being the capital city. It was a chance I had to take,” he recalled. 

McLaren described his grueling encounter with Striegl as hitting two birds with one stone as it likewise raised his stock as a prizefighter. 

“I felt like this was my opportunity to get myself on the world stage. I also knew it would be my chance to get noticed. Mark is a very followed fighter with a massive fan-base,” he said. 

Being made public that he is half-Filipino, McLaren considers it as an achievement on his part as he has been the Pinoy youngster on his locale’s block.

“I think it’s great. Growing up, I’ve been called it all the time. I was pushed down in the dirt many times, so getting recognition for being who I am was nice. I’m a proud Filipino kid,” he stated. 

Once again the fighting underdog

McLaren is booked to make another trip to his father’s motherland, but ONE Championship is putting him inside the boiler room once more as he locks horns with highly-touted prospect Muin “Tajik” Gafurov on the promotion’s “Global Rivals” undercard on April 15.

Gafurov is undefeated in 10 professional bouts since he started his prizefighting run in November 2013. 

The 19-year-old combatant from Dushanbe, Tajikistan has never gone the distance in his young career, hauling 6 submission triumphs and 4 knockout wins. 

In his first ONE Championship outing in September 2015, “Tajik” knocked out Casey Suire in just 55 seconds with a spinning back kick to the midsection. 

Gafurov followed it up by attaining a statement-making victory over one-time bantamweight title challenger Toni Tauru last January by disposing the Finnish stalwart in the third round. 

McLaren sees it as one big hurdle to overcome, but he believes that his experience will play a pivotal role in the marquee match-up. 

“Muin is a very good young fighter. He hasn’t been into the later rounds,” McLaren said of his opponent. 

Aside from ONE Championship, McLaren has made sporadic appearances in several mixed martial arts (MMA) organizations, including Eternal MMA, Nitro MMA and Xtreme Fighting Championship. 

McLaren was welcomed in the Australian MMA scene through a baptism of fire, dancing with tough foes such as Kian Pham, Shantaram Maharaj, Jacob Mahony and current UFC flyweight competitor Ben Nguyen. 

The 5-foot-6 submission specialist stressed that his back has always been against the wall in most of his fights, but he managed to rise to the occasion. 

“I’ve been the underdog most of my career. When we took the fight with Mark, I was there to win. I didn’t take the fight just to fill in. I’m no pincushion,” McLaren shared. 

McLaren seeks to follow in the path of the tradition of Philippine fighters who exemplified the true spirit of a warrior in either a boxing ring or an MMA cage. 

“I’m so happy to be back fighting on Philippine soil. You’ve seen me on 8 days notice. This time I’ve had 6 weeks. Cannot wait,” he ended. –

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