Singapore Sportstar Spotlight: This MMA Fighter Also Makes A Mean Apple Crumble
Kai Xiong takes fighting and food seriously. Whether it's legitimately kicking ass as a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter or whipping up a mean apple crumble in the kitchen, the NTU Sports Science and Management undergraduate is wholly dedicated to his craft.
He was introduced to the world of MMA by his older brother and started training at the age of 16. Over the next decade, he would hone his skills and gain competitive experience across the region in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and now Korea.
Kai Xiong is now 25 and preparing for the biggest fight of his budding career come 30 April when he will make his debut in BRAVE Combat Federation - a global fight organisation headquarted in Bahrain that is giving established promotions such as UFC and Singapore-based ONE Championship a run for their money.
It's a delicate balance: Putting in time at the gym and on the mat while fulfilling his full-time internship commitments as an undergraduate. His ultimate goal: to be the best fighter in the world. What fuels him: his deep conviction that it is his calling to go toe to toe with the very best.
We catch up with rising MMA star to talk about preparing for the biggest fight of his career to date, being at the right place at the right time, and... revealing the secret to the perfect apple crumble.
What or who inspired you to get into MMA and pursue it professionally?
MMA started out as an interest and hobby for me. My brother (on the left in the IG post above) played a massive role as my first experience with any kind of physical “combat” was “rough housing” - as brothers do!
But he said one thing that stuck with me. He told me he always wanted to know what it was like to be in the cage. Somehow, that one line stuck with me and I developed the curiosity to find out for myself. This led to joining gyms, training and, before you know it, here I am 8 years later. While he didn’t pursue it, he is my number one supporter every single fight!
My coach also played a huge role in this decision [to pursue fighting professionally] as he told me to aim for the UFC right from the start once I came back from NS. Everything we have done since my amateur career has been tailored for the pursuit of this same end-goal.
You've trained and competed the world over - what are some of the biggest lessons you've taken away from this experience?
The biggest takeaway is that you never know what you’re truly capable of. As stereotypical as it sounds of an athlete, I did indeed learn this for myself - not from a particular incident but through the course of competing over the years.
Fighting is a massive endeavour physically and mentally, and there has always been a "logical" reason to take the easy way out and not compete. For instance, being an undergraduate, freelance trainer and competitor, there was almost always a reason to tell myself that preparation would not be ideal or that trying to juggle everything would be too much to handle.
However, I’ve come to realise it doesn’t matter what the obstacle is, we humans are adaptable and find a way around it regardless of the difficulty. In my past two fights I had to study on the plane to and from the Philippines as I had a term finals two days after competing. More recently, the semester of my final-year project involved countless lab hours, data processing, and, finally, producing a report. I did this alongside a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition, a boxing match and my third professional fight.
Right now, my preparation for the biggest fight of my career has my weekdays starting at 8am and ending at 10.30pm - [and that's because I am] concurrently on a full-time internship. Hence, this saying is indeed true to me: "where there’s a will, there’s a way"!
How's your preparation for your upcoming BRAVE CF debut? (And please enlighten those of us who are unaware of how big of an organisation it is compared to UFC of ONE Championship!)
This has been the most difficult preparation of my career due to juggling three training sessions a day with a full-time internship. Nevertheless, it has also been the most fruitful, as I believe I have improved more so than in the past two years.
While smaller than ONE Championship or UFC, BRAVE is certainly a big player in the MMA industry. It has hosted shows across more than 10 countries and is expanding rapidly. I believe the next generation of world-class athletes are within their ranks or will pass through them eventually. I believe the top guys in BRAVE are equal to or potentially better than those in ONE and UFC.
An unseen reality in combat sports is that athletes who are simply at the right place at the right time get opportunities to compete where more deserving, skilled athletes do not. I have. This fight is a massive opportunity to showcase my skills and mark the beginning of me making a name for myself on the world stage.
As a massive foodie, how do you balance your love of food with taking care of your nutrition as an MMA fighter?
This is the trickiest part of fighting! The cravings while watching my weight push my limits as far as they can go. When it’s time to get serious, I look at it as something a professional would have to do, like any other responsibility of a working man.
However, after fights, my eating habits would scare most people. When one is restricted for an extended amount of time, you’d be amazed what crazy ideas they can come up with to satisfy their hunger. I guess it’s just about working hard and playing (or eating) equally hard.
My weaknesses are potato chips and ice cream. One of my favorite past times outside of competition season is buffets and cooking big meals to share with my friends and family.
A little birdie told us you make a mean apple crumble - wah seh! Share your secret leh!
You gotta put your soul into it! When you are baking, it’s all about enjoying the process of watching everything come together in a glorious sugary masterpiece, and sprinkling on a little bit of love, a little bit of imagining how good it will taste, and huge portions of thinking how awesome the end result will be! Also, ice cream as toppings really help too.