By Danny Jones – @Tidy_MMA
Few unanimously garner the anticipation and intrigue of MMA enthusiasts like Vietnamese athlete An Tuan Ho.
After all, in his five professional bouts fought exclusively with LFA, “The Highlight” has produced a viral head kick knockout, earned a 2023 LFA Fans’ Choice Awards Submission of the Year nomination, and handed an eighteen-bout professional his first professional loss via knockout – all before his 23rd birthday.
Across all five of his professional bouts, the undefeated flyweight has been the younger competitor. Finishing four opponents inside the distance, he was the shorter competitor with the lesser reach in each of his four stoppage victories. Only once has An gone the distance as a professional, earning a dominant unanimous decision victory (3 x 30-27) against a former-Bellator athlete.
Showcasing a wisdom beyond his years, however, An looks beyond the aforementioned merits when reflecting on the highs of the past two years. Instead, he favours overcoming the events preceding his bout with Kendrick Latchman at LFA 168 most.
“In that fight, the story leading up to it, it’s my favourite story, just because of all the adversity that I’d gone through just to get into the octagon” An admits. “Leading up to the fight, I had a lot of injuries that just me and my team knew about. I just kept grinding, and I kept going to the gym, and just working through it. By the time fight week comes, all my injuries were pretty healed up, and I was ready to go”.
Upon his arrival in Minnesota for LFA 168, however, An endured further adversity.
“Everything was just a mess” An explains. “I got there and the gym at the casino was closed, and I wasn’t able to use their gym to cut weight. So, me and my coach had to travel 20 minutes away to go to another gym to start cutting weight. Of course, I missed by 0.5 [lbs] – [but] that’s no excuse”.
“I couldn’t find my mouthpiece when I got there [either]” An laments. “I had checked all my baggage and everything before I’d gone; before I had flew out. After the weigh in, I couldn’t find my mouthpiece, and it was just a lot of pressure. I didn’t make the weight, [and then] I couldn’t find my f*****g mouthpiece!”.
Having sourced a ‘boil and bite’ mouthguard, An’s manager delivered a replacement mouthpiece backstage to An. To An’s dismay, however, the replacement mouthpiece also went missing.
“I’d put it in a cup just to keep the mould rounded so it didn’t fall out of my mouth” An explains. “I left the cup on the side of the mat, and someone threw it away in the trash! We ended up finding the mouthpiece, which [was an] unnecessary stress already, and I was about to f*****g go out and fight too. So there was just a lot of pressure on my end”.
Despite weight-cutting woes and mouthpiece mishaps, An overcame the adversity to deliver a sensational second-round knockout of Kendrick Latchman; the first knockout loss of Latchman’s professional MMA career.
“I got out there and I did it” An states proudly. “That made me feel that the external is only temporary, and I can only control what’s on the internal. And that was a lesson for me. Stay calm under pressure. That was the lesson it taught me”.
Throughout his professional career, An has projected a deserved confidence in tandem to dominant performances. His unwavering self-belief, however, does not venture towards arrogance.
“I think that’s the key of life too – just be balanced” An says. “You don’t want to be cocky, and you don’t want to be timid. Being humble and being timid is totally different. Now that I’ve had a lot of success in my career, people are like ‘Hey be humble, be humble’. But what’s your definition of humbleness? Some people’s definition of humbleness is being down to earth, and that’s my philosophy. I’m just a down to earth person, but again, I’m not timid. I’m gonna allow my light to shine as bright as possible. Some people, they don’t like that. They tell you to be humble, but they are just scared of the light you are shining out”.
When the Vietnamese flyweight returns on February 9th 2024 at LFA 176 in Phoenix, Arizona, it will be just two days shy of the second year anniversary of his professional debut. Coming full circle, An will contest his sixth professional bout at the same venue of his LFA debut at LFA 124; the Arizona Financial Theatre.
With LFA 176 will marking his fifth main card bout for LFA – and his second co-main event – An reflects fondly on his professional development with LFA.
“It’s helped me a lot man” An admits. “It gave me a big platform to go perform in. I got to meet a lot of cool people that are helping me now because they are affiliated with LFA, and they were there to watch my fights. I made a couple of friends that are a couple of sponsors that are helping me full time, so that I could become a full time fighter and not have to worry about money and stuff. Right now, everything is going good for me, and I’m just super glad that I’m able to fight for LFA and get the exposure”.
The author extends his utmost gratitude to An Tuan Ho for making this article possible.
Photo sourced from the VietNam News website (credited to Hồ Tuấn An)