Reece McLaren faces Yuya Wakamatsu this week on a card that is being broadcast on TNT in the US. The #5 ranked Australian flyweight sees it as an opportunity to make a name for himself and maybe even earn a shot at Adriano Moraes,

“This is going to be an exciting bout, fast-paced and full of fireworks. I’m hoping that it steals (the show) in April.”

Wakamatsu is currently ranked #4 and McLaren thinks the winner at ONE on TNT Part III could be in line for a shot at the champion,

“The best flyweights in the world are in ONE and I think the winner of this bout is the one that will be challenging for gold next, so this is everything,” he said.

Reece McLaren punches Alexsi Toivonen

Super consistent

McLaren took a boxing match at the tail end of 2020. He didn’t win but it proved the BJJ black belt is serious about stepping outside of his comfort zone to challenge himself in different disciplines.

He was last seen stopping the previously undefeated Aleksi Toivonen at ONE: ‘Reign of Dynasties’ in October and believes he has made some serious strides since then,

“I’ve been training every day, staying super consistent. I’ve been able to get that 1% better every day, and I truly believe that this is the best version of myself coming into this one,”

The 29 year old is riding a two fight winning streak and believes he is a different fighter to the one that fans last saw in 2020,

“I’m bigger, stronger, and faster, and I’m ready to showcase it.”

Reece McLaren kicks Alexsi Toivonen

Structured schedule

In 2016 he challenged unsuccessfully for the bantamweight belt at ONE: ‘Age of Domination’, dropping a split decision to Bibiano Fernandes. McLaren is now competing at a lower weight and wants another crack at a title,

“This is the first camp that I’ve actually had a structured schedule, strength and conditioning. There’s more on the line with each bout now that I’m climbing this ladder, so I’m trying to get my title shot again and we have left no stone unturned.”

Wakamatsu has some spectacular knockouts on his record and McLaren thinks the ingredients could be in place for a ‘fight of the night’ contender,

“I think Yuya as a mixed martial artist is phenomenally athletic. He’s got great striking and gets back up off the ground quite well as well, so I think the fans are in for a big treat,” he said.

The Japanese fighter has finished Kyu Sung Kim and Geje Eustaquio with his right hand and McLaren is well aware of the danger Wakamatsu poses,

“His biggest weapon is definitely the right hand. He’s put a few (opponents) to sleep with it and has shown that he knows how to use it very well.”

Reece Mclaren and Kairat Akhmetov

Ace up the sleeve

The BJJ black belt might have made his pro boxing debut recently. But McLaren is not going to let his opponent play to his obvious strengths,

“For each person you compete against, you have to work different strategies to be able to overcome what they have. You don’t really want to play into their strengths. You always want to bring them into their weaknesses.”

The Australian is adamant he has at least one advantage over his opponent,

“My wrestling, definitely. I have what I would consider an ace up my sleeve with my shot, so if I need to pull it out, I’ll be pulling it out.”

Having experienced victory and defeat in his 11 ONE Championship fights McLaren knows how fine the margins can be. He acknowledges that either man could end up with their hand raised and thinks it will come down to who is sharper on the night,

“I hope Yuya comes in fit and ready ’cause we definitely are. It’s going to be who’s crisper and more on point on the night that is going to walk away as the victor.”