Reece McLaren in action. Photo Credit: ONE Championship. Graphic Design by Theo Dimou

Australia's Reece McLaren (ranked #4) returns to the ONE Championship cage in a flyweight mixed martial arts contest against China’s Hu Yong (ranked #5) on May 4.

Reece ‘Lightning’ McLaren says he has “re-awoken the monster” as he is set to take on ‘Wolf Warrior’ Hu Yong at ONE Fight Night 22: Sundell vs. Diachkova.

In an exclusive interview, Reece McLaren reveals an inside look into his arduous training camp, discusses his transition to a new MMA team and speaks out on the current state of the flyweight division.

“It’s been really good, I think it’s been one of the best, if not the best training camp I’ve had in the last three years,” he told The Inner Sanctum.

“It’s really differed (to previous camps), this is really the first time in my whole career that I’m doing pad work with greater strategic and combination plays.”

McLaren previously trained under Muay Thai legend John Wayne Parr but now fights out of Queensland’s CMBT Training Centre, having said “things ran their course” at his previous gym and was looking to take his MMA journey down a new direction.

“It definitely feels like I’m taking my MMA in the direction that I’ve wanted to for a very, very long time, so I’m very excited,” he said.

“We’ve re-awoken the monster – grappling is definitely going to be on show and a new and improved movement-based striking is coming to Bangkok.”

‘Lightning’ last fought in May 2023, losing to Kairat Akhmetov by unanimous decision – however, Akhmetov was found to have failed an out-of-competition drug test ten days after the fight – which led to McLaren unsuccessfully calling for his fight to be overturned to a ‘no contest’.

Fast forward almost a year later, when asked about his ever-growing skillset and how he feels his style matches up with Hu Yong’s, McLaren simply said the fight is going to go “horribly” for his opponent.

“When you look at everyone that’s ranked in the top five, my jiu-jitsu is one of, if not the most dangerous in the top five,” he said.

“My ground and pound and submissions are probably some of the most dangerous in the flyweight division in any organisation.”

Without looking past the tough test in front of him, McLaren gave a glance behind the curtain into what the future holds for the Australian flyweight.

First and foremost, ‘Lightning’ is ready to steamroll through ‘Wolf Warrior’ and stake his claim for a flyweight title shot, but he says one day he would “love to go back to bantamweight”, claiming it is a much more natural weight class for him.

“The thing is, I was making that weight too easy, which is why when I was fighting at bantamweight, I was weighing in at like 64kg, a very light 65kg,” he said.

“I was fully hydrated, eating pretty much whatever I wanted through that week, so that’s pretty much why we moved to flyweight.

“These bantamweights, some of those boys, they are cutting weight and they’re cutting big and they’re coming back in big … so it made sense for us to go down a weight class.”

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McLaren has been calling for a big fight for quite some time now, believing himself to be just one fight away from a shot at gold.

Despite being ranked in the top five and in arms reach of the belt, the Australian says he was prepared to risk his ranking for a chance at dethroning Flyweight Submission Grappling Champion Mikey Musumeci.

“So he hit me up for a match, I said yeah give me a little bit more time because he wanted to do it with like four weeks’ notice or something,” he said.

“I can’t make the weight in four weeks, and then he just went quiet on me and started ghosting me – the ‘nice guy’ that he is or whatever – I think he’s full of shit.”

The always-game ‘Lightning’ was more than willing to put MMA on hold to take the belt from the submission grappling king, especially since his division’s champion has gone quiet.

The winner of ‘Lightning’ versus ‘Wolf Warrior’ could potentially be next in line for a Flyweight MMA World Title shot against division king and MMA legend Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson.

However, ‘Mighty Mouse’ has been out of action for almost a year and continues to hint at retirement, leaving the division and Reece McLaren searching for answers.

“So I slid into his DMs and was like ‘Hey DJ, what are you doing, are you retiring?’ Basically, I called him an old man,” he said.

“I’m just in a very frustrating spot where DJ’s kind of holding up the division, he’s either got to fight or retire, he keeps talking retirement, he’s done, he’s the greatest of all time.

“That’s the next fight that I hope he gets offered and we get offered and it’s up to him then to either accept or give it up.”

Despite all the controversy surrounding the future of the flyweight division, McLaren has his eyes locked on Hu Yong and is ready to bring the thunder to Bangkok.

“If you’re a fan of me or not a fan of me, too bad, cause the monster’s coming, and it’s going to be a one-sided bashing.”

Reece ‘Lightning’ McLaren returns to ONE Championship on May 4 at ONE Fight Night 22: Sundell vs. Diachkova, live from Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Fans in Australia can watch the fights through 7 Sport or the 7+ app.

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