Asa Ten Pow will be making his debut in ONE Championship on October 21. At ONE on Prime Video 3, the US-born athlete will face former top contender Mehdi Zatout. Asa Ten Pow has professional-level experience in boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and MMA. ‘The American Ninja' was a standout fighter in GLORY Kickboxing, going 6-1 inside the promotion.
While competing in ONE, he will be looking to make history and earn ONE gold in three sports. Ten Pow sits down with Timothy Wheaton of Beyond Kickboxing for an exclusive interview, ahead of his debut in ONE Championship.
Exclusive Interview with Asa Ten Pow
Making your debut in ONE Championship, fighting ONE on Prime Video 3. How’s training coming along?
I’m excited for it. Just with watching the ONE Championship on Prime for the first time, I was really excited to see that. Being here in America, being able to watch it live in the evening time in a primetime spot, especially on a Friday night, that’s great. We don’t have football here on Friday nights, so Friday night is a perfect time.
To see the growth of ONE, I’ve seen its conception. To be honest, been in martial arts forever so I’ve seen where it’s started, where it’s gotten to and I like what they’ve become. I like what they’re striving for and I wanted to be a part of that. I’m happy to be here.
ONE Championship is offering a ton of opportunities, especially for someone like yourself – Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and MMA. You also have boxing experience. But in ONE Championship, you’re aiming for all 3 titles? Is that correct?
I am, yeah.
Tell us a little bit more. So in those divisions, you’ve got Hiroki Akimoto, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, and John Lineker. Who do you think you match up with best? Who do you want to call out?
I think [Hiroki Akimoto] who is the champion, he beat Capitan. I saw his style – it’s very good, very fluent, very consistent.
I feel great with any match-up, especially Kickboxing. Muay Thai, I’m a little bit versed in. I’m not as experienced but I’ve been developing my game since I was 18. I know I’m way far behind Nong-O as far as that goes but I have a lot more tricks up my sleeve because I’ve been able to transition from different sports fairly well. I believe I’ve done well as an amateur in all 3 sports and then continuing to the pros. I’ve gotten successful with it. I think I bring a lot of arsenal, a lot of weapons that they may not be accustomed to and maybe haven’t seen as much. So I believe stylistically I’m a tough match-up for most.
I think ONE Championship agrees because you can tell based on matchmaking how much they respect you. Mehdi Zatout, in your debut! They’re moving you to the top of the division. How do you see the fight playing out? They clearly think you’re the next guy.
I don’t want to be built up. I’ve built myself to be here. I’m supposed to be one of the best. I believe when they gave me Mehdi – I looked into him and this man’s got experience! You know – he’s been in the game, fully invested in the Muay Thai scene and his game – it’s on point. It’s balanced, it’s a good style. And with his experience, his championship pedigree, that’s the way I wanted it. I want to fight the best, regardless of the outcome.
I’m shooting to win, shooting to knockout, all that. I need these guys who are championship-level to push me. In my camp, if I know I’m fighting a killer then I’m on it. If I know it’s a gimme fight then I may not perform up to what I should. I didn’t want that, I told them straight up, let’s go!
Medhi Zatout fought Saenchai years ago, you just did a seminar with Saenchai, did you ask him about this fight at all?
A little bit of a language barrier there. Saenchai is like my uncle. I’m not going to bother him with that much stuff. I was just happy to be there with him, happy that he could come to my school. The stuff I’m doing with my Kru, with my teacher, we’ve got it figured out.
You’ve done MMA in smaller gloves, done Kickboxing in big gloves, this match will be Muay Thai in the smaller gloves. Do you have a preference for gloves?
No, I don’t care. With the bigger gloves, you get a little bit more volume. You get a little bit more action. It is best suited for Kickboxing. Muay Thai, with the grappling aspect, it really is good with the fingers. Now you can really do more in the clinch, utilize your weapons a little differently. The punches are obviously going to be a lot stronger.
I like [smaller gloves]. When I put on those four-ounce gloves I feel like Street Fighter, like Ryu. I’ve always worn the bigger gloves and then it’s like, ‘Oh, a little freedom here.’ Especially when I went to MMA, oh my gosh, I can be everywhere, all this mystical stuff people don’t know. I don’t have to worry about blocking 10 or 15-shot combinations.
It’s free, it’s nice. And I think it suits my hands very well. Got some good power behind my punches. The four-ounce gloves are only going to work in my favor.
You made your MMA debut during a time GLORY wasn't offering fights. Was MMA always the plan, or were just keeping busy in hopes you can return to Kickboxing or Muay Thai when the time comes?
Yeah, MMA was always on the back burner for me. In the beginning, I always wanted it. I started in MMA when I was 18 and I almost went professional back then in shows that have come and gone now. Thankfully I didn’t. I felt with my body type, my maturity level in the sport, it wasn’t there for 155 pounds, then the 145 pounders doesn’t make much of a difference.
My mindset coming from traditional martial arts like Kung Fu, Sanshou, going to the ground is not something we do. We don’t really engage in that style of fighting. I was into throws, was into sweeps, but I wasn’t into takedowns. Grabbing people around the legs and waist wasn’t into that. That was going to be a big problem in the game. Especially here in the States with the cage and the way MMA fights are scored it favors the top guy in wrestling. I don’t agree but it does, thats the way the sport is.
I’m just an enthusiast in martial arts. If I don’t feel like it then I’ll just go and do this. And I still love it. When I was doing MMA as an amateur and I stopped I was like, ‘This is okay but I’m not getting something out of this.’ Some of the fights were so quick. Some of the fights were like close decision losses where I felt like we were laying down the whole time. I wasn’t getting my scraps in. I need to get down, these one punch finishes, that’s not always fun. Especially when you put in eight weeks. You want to have a good fight, have a good performance.
I wanted to get back into Kickboxing. At the time, I thought I’d go for K-1. Going from Muay Thai to Kickboxing, it’s pretty natural. It takes about a fight or so to get on it. It doesn’t take me too long, I think I transition well. I think my maturity as an athlete in martial arts allows me to swap back and forth.
I’m not here to just to do it, you heard me say I want three belts, I want to do it at the highest level. I’m not just participating.
You’ve done boxing, Sanda, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA. For you, what combat sport is the perfect one? Where do you feel at home?
MMA, to a degree, allows for everything. It’s so young still as a base martial art. There’s still a lot of development, a ton of things people have not seen. And it goes through phases; dominant wrestler, dominant ground and pound, dominant striker. We’ve seen it transition, so it’s not fully there yet in my opinion.
For me, MMA is the ultimate test. There’s so many ways to win and so many ways to lose. There’s only a few ways to win and lose in Muay Thai and Kickboxing. That dynamic for sure allows you to expand on your martial arts.
But at the same time, those specific art allow for a certain artist to go into. In Muay Thai, I’m not trying to be the MMA guy in Muay Thai, I’m trying to not necessarily be a Muay Thai fighter but I want the root. I want to perform the techniques the way they’re supposed to be performed. I want to win you’re supposed to win in scoring. To me, the more specific sports, the more specialized, offer something more special. It’s more specialized. It’s hard to say, that’s why I’m in ONE. That’s why I’m here, I can’t pick.
Who were some of your biggest inspirations for getting into combat sports?
My parents put me in it first. But also Bruce Lee. I have all the VHS' of Bruce Lee. He was my hero, idol. And hearing how young he was and accomplishing these things, really, wow! Seeing how he developed himself and martial arts and how he speaks about it. This guy looks like me, I want to be like him too.
Combatively, I was doing Sanda at the time, Cung Le. I saw him when I was eight or nine years old. He was up in Orlando doing Nick Scrima’s big tournament in like 1997. He fought Jason Yee. This was a super fight for Sanda. This guy coming over being the top, and Cung Le being the top.
When Cung Le would come in the room, got a backward hat on and was yoked. He was the man. I even saw him on ESPN a couple of times. When he walked in the room, especially at a tournament, all eyes went to him. Even my father at the time was like, 'That’s the best right there, he’s the best.' I was like, I want to be that. When I walk in the room like oh, all eyes on me.
He was the best. Another Asian guy I can bounce off of.
What advice would you give to new fighters?
I was just going to start a YouTube to talk about this kind of stuff. For new fighters, you’ve got to find your consistency, got to find your discipline. Younger ones are okay, they have time. But the older ones, maybe past 25, you kind of have to lay it on them like we gotta go we need to start this now especially if you want a career. I always ask, do you want this as a hobby or do you want a career? If you want a career then there’s a lot of sh*t we can talk about. But if you want to start a hobby then I can tell you about how much fun we’re going to have, how much you’re going to change as a character, as a person.
But I don’t get into the career part unless the guy has been there for a long time. A beginner it’s like let’s just see if he can stay for three months, six months, if he stays for a year I’ll talk to him more about maybe fighting is for you.
I like the student before the fighter. I’ll tell them what I’m looking for as far as consistency, time put in, dedication, effort, those valuable things that are going to be needed to make this whole thing work.