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Thread: Zhang Weili

  1. #31
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    This article was pre-fight...

    ...but it shows why I adore Zhang. She's a bannerwoman for Kung Fu.

    UFC 248: Chinese champ Zhang Weili has conquered the world, but home is where the heart is
    Hailing from Handan, a city famous for fighters and steeped in martial arts history, Zhang has been spoiling for a fight from an early age
    But she admits it’s been hard not to get swept up in the hype of being China’s first UFC champion, as she prepares for first title defence in Las Vegas
    Mathew Scott
    Published: 2:24pm, 7 Mar, 2020


    UFC women’s strawweight champion Zhang Weili, of China, arrives for the UFC 248 ceremonial weigh-in at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Photo: AP

    The bright lights of Las Vegas have beckoned Zhang “Magnum” Weili ever since the Chinese fighter created history last August by becoming her country’s first UFC world champion.
    A place, front and centre, on the biggest stage there is in combat sports is due reward for anyone who reaches the pinnacle of MMA and come Saturday (Sunday, Asia time) at the T-Mobile Arena, the world will turn to Zhang (20-1) as she defends her title against a former champ in Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-3).
    Since her stunning 42-second TKO of Brazil’s Jessica Andrade to take the UFC’s strawweight belt in Shenzhen, Zhang has been in constant demand, touring the globe greeting the public and the media. But, she says, whenever the adulation – and the rising tide of fame and fortune – have become too much, she has one place where her thoughts return for comfort, and a due dose of reality.
    Home.



    “I come from Handan and the city is famous for fighters,” Zhang says. “People know what the life of a fighter can be like so I have support always from my parents and my friends.”
    Handan is situated in China’s northern province of Hebei and is home to around 9.5 million people, although Zhang still refers to the place as a “small town” which says much of the size of things in a nation of some 1.4 billion.
    The city is steeped in martial arts history, with the native crafts of t'ai chi and wushu, kung fu and sanda (Chinese kick-boxing) practised daily by a fair swathe of its population and the tales of its own legends, down through the ages, shared in the schools and out on the playgrounds.
    “Everybody in Handan worships martial arts,” Zhang says. “Everybody wants to be strong. Old people, young people, everybody is doing some kind of tai chi or wrestling. So the development for fighters is amazing. This has gone on for thousands of years and Handan is famous for fighters.”
    The Zhang origin story has her spoiling for a fight from an early age, projecting her fellow female classmates from the bully boys before turning her attentions to the more disciplined regimes of sanda and shuai jiao (Chinese wrestling).


    Zhang Weili faces off with Joanna Jedrzejczyk at the UFC 248 ceremonial weigh-ins.

    Despite Handan’s history, Zhang’s family weren’t keen on their daughter becoming a fighter by trade, pushing her towards more “respectable” pursuits such as teaching, despite the fact her mother had put the young Zhang through a “toughening up” regime during her formative years. That included making Zhang jump up out of holes dug into the ground – exercises from which she developed the core strength that these days powers her game.
    But Zhang kept training on the sly before making the leap into MMA – with what remains her only loss, a decision loss after two rounds to compatriot Meng Bo (14-5) back in 2013. Since then it’s been 20-0, and a 4-0 run in the UFC that took her to the title.
    China knew what was coming, but the world has been a little slower to catch on. Still, as Zhang’s reputation grew across the Chinese MMA community, back home in Handan she found she could still escape to relative anonymity.


    Zhang Weili on stage at the UFC 248 ceremonial weigh-ins. Photo: Amy Kaplan

    “I thought that everybody knows me, since way back when I became regional champion,” Zhang says. “But I don’t hang out a lot. There are many fighters in Handan and a lot of my parents’ friends didn’t even know that I was their daughter. This helps make life real for me and keeps my feet on the ground.
    “A few years ago my parents had a worker in to fix our water heating and he was telling them they should check out this Zhang Weili as he heard that she came from near their home and she was a very good fighter. He asked them ‘Do you know her?’ And they laughed and told him. So I can never get too big for Handan.”
    Zhang readily admits that it has at times been hard not to get swept up in the hype that surrounds any world champ, not least when you are your nation’s first in the UFC.


    Former UFC women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, of Poland, poses on the scale during the ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 248. Photo: AP

    In the lead-up to Saturday’s first title defence, the pressure, the sense of expectation, has been building, made seemingly more claustrophobic by events that are out of Zhang’s control.
    With the normal secure regime of fight camp destroyed by the rise of the coronavirus in China, Zhang shifted camp twice – to Thailand and then Abu Dhabi – as she was made to sweat on news of whether she’d even be allowed to enter the US.
    This week in Vegas, with now only the fight ahead to worry about, Zhang admits she at times lost sight of the bigger picture of what has been going on around the world this year. But then, as always, her thoughts turned to home.
    “When I was in Abu Dhabi I became super upset and I called my mum,” Zhang says. “She said remember in China we are combating the coronavirus. Think about those doctors and nurses and patients. Think of them in combat on the front lines fighting this disease. You are just in an unfamiliar place. Your job is much easier, don’t complain. Then I realised I am not alone. Everybody has their fights. So I think this victory is for us all. Now nothing can shake me.”
    This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: home is where the heart is for UFC star Zhang
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #32
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    Iron Man & Magnum

    I wonder if Robert met Weili. That would be a cool photo op.

    Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. attends UFC 248, big fan of Chinese martial art Wing Chun
    Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/10 17:33:43 1


    Robert Downey Jr. Photo: VCG

    It seems Iron Man is a big fan of Chinese martial art Wing Chun. Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. was caught on camera showing off some of his Wing Chun moves during the bout between UFC Women's Strawweight champion Zhang Weili and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 on Saturday when he showed off some of his Wing Chun moves. On Monday Downey posted a video of himself at the event on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo along with a post in which he called the battle between the two a classic and congratulated both fighters. Chinese netizens were surprised to see that Downey has studied Wing Chun, which is based on traditional Southern Chinese martial arts. "Iron Man knows Wing Chun! If he had used Wing Chun to fight Thanos, it would have been much easier to beat the enemy," one netizen commented on Sina Weibo. Some netizens speculated that the star became interested in Chinese martial arts due to the release of this year's Ip Man 4: The Finale, a film about the legendary Win Chun master Yip Man. But actually, Downey has been studying Wing Chun for more than 10 years. He started practicing the martial art in 2003. According to a report from sohu.com, his teacher is one of the students of Zhang Zhuoqing, Yip's favorite pupil. According to the report, Downey practices Wing Chun three to five times each week and says that it successfully diverted his attention from drugs and helped him develop healthy habits. "Wing Chun cannot only help maintain your physique, but can make you more stable, more modest and more relaxed with others," he said. Zhang, who had successfully defended her title against Jedrzejczyk, replied to Downey on Sina Weibo, saying she hopes that he enjoyed the competition.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #33
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    Here's another pre-fight article...

    ...the 'official' one from UFC.



    ZHANG WEILI FOUND HER VOICE IN MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
    A pair of epiphanies led Zhang Weili to UFC gold and her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
    BY THOMAS GERBASI, ON TWITTER @TGERBASI • MAR. 5, 2020

    Zhang Weili calls it “an epiphany,” and oh, what a time it was to have one.

    One punch from UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade already came perilously close to her chin in their championship bout in Shenzhen last August, and another was on the way. It was in that moment that Zhang realized what her coaches had been telling her all along.

    “I had a very clear head in the Octagon,” she recalled. “When her first punch scraped my face, I realized my chin was a bit high, so on her second punch I lowered my chin. Then I had an epiphany: Your chin has to be low if you’re on an attack. If your chin is high, your body can’t attack.”

    Zhang lowered her chin. Then she attacked. And at 42 seconds of the first round, the 30-year-old native of Hebei became the first UFC champion from China. Then the madness began.

    UFC

    @ufc
    :4️⃣2️⃣

    All Zhang needed to become the first Chinese champion 🏆🇨🇳 #UFC248

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    “The first month or so after I got my championship belt, I was super busy,” said Zhang, and that’s not surprising considering she comes from a nation of over 1.4 billion people. “It was the busiest month of my life. My schedule was filled with constant interviews and photoshoots for media, so many of them. At one point I had to speak non-stop from early morning until midnight. And I just couldn’t speak anymore. It was so much more exhausting than training. (Laughs) At that moment I realized that training is such a blessing.”

    It always has been for Zhang, a self-proclaimed “quiet kid” who found her voice in the gym, first in Sanda, then mixed martial arts.

    “It dawned on me that after training martial arts and MMA, I became more confident,” she said. “I found something that I was really passionate about, that I feel really strong about. When I watched movies about fighting, when I watched them training, I’d get excited. This is my passion.”

    That passion was expected to remain a hobby, though, as there were few opportunities on the big stage of MMA for male athletes in China, let alone women. And when an injury sidelined Zhang for five years, it looked like the end arrived before it began. It was an opinion supported by her parents.

    “At first they were (supportive),” said Zhang. “But then I got injured and retired, so I stopped training for five years. They were convinced that girls should go to school, since I got injured a lot. But after I got a job, I worked with MMA and my passion in this was ignited again. So I told my family to allow me three years. If I could make it, I will. If not, I won’t regret it. They agreed and they’re more than supportive right now.”

    UFC

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    * MIC'D UP *

    🎤 Listen in as the champ and challenger bring the HEAT! #UFC248

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    There was still a long way to go. Yet in 2013, six years before she struck gold in Shenzhen, Zhang had her first epiphany when Ronda Rousey defeated Liz Carmouche in the first women’s bout in UFC history. Now she had something concrete to shoot for and she let everybody know.

    “The moment I decided to go pro, I was aiming for the UFC,” said Zhang. “I was sure of it. Back in 2013, I posted on social media that as long as I hold on to my dream and keep challenging the great fighters, I will end up in the Octagon of the UFC. I had faith in myself even back then. And I had always aimed for the championship. When I told others about my dream, everyone assumed I was kidding. But ever since then, I’ve been working hard for my dream.”

    Last August, the dream became a reality, but Zhang hasn’t stopped dreaming. Now, it’s a quest to keep the belt, one that begins this weekend when she faces former 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It’s a fight Zhang was thinking of even before Jedrzejczyk knew who she was.

    “When Joanna was still the champion, I watched her fights when I was still fighting domestically, and I set my mind on fighting with her and taking the belt from her,” she said. “But now it’s the other way around. She’s trying to take the belt from me. And I’ve always thought that we’d meet in a fight. I think she’s an opponent who deserves to be respected.”

    That doesn’t mean Zhang will sit idly by for any trash talk from her opponent.

    “I know who she is,” said the champion of her challenger. “It’s all part of her tactic to curse and make you angry before going to the fight. I won’t take her seriously. I know she’s just acting. I won’t curse her. In Chinese culture, one does not curse to show her attitude. I will show her my attitude with my punches.”

    And by the time Saturday night turns into Sunday morning, Zhang expects to still have her title intact.

    “This championship belt is past tense for her,” said Zhang. “She should live with that.”
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  4. #34
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    about that hematoma...

    Gotta give Joanna props for taking that shot and not going down.

    Joanna Jedrzejczyk set for surgery in Poland for hematoma suffered in UFC 248 fight
    By Cole Shelton -March 12, 2020


    Imag via @joannajedrzejczyk on Instagram

    Joanna Jedrzejczyk will have surgery in Poland to help the swelling go down from the hematoma she sustained in her UFC 248 fight.

    In the co-main event, Jedrzejczyk was fighting Weili Zhang for the strawweight belt. She was looking to reclaim the title after losing it to Rose Namajunas back in 2017. Yet, after a hard-fought five rounds, where many consider it to be one of the best fights of all-time it was Zhang who won a split-decision.

    Not only did she lose but Jedrzejczyk sustained a massive hematoma which was one of the worst in recent memory. And, not even one week after the fight, she says it is getting much better and the swelling on her forehead has gone down.

    “My whole face is bruised but there’s no more swelling on my forehead,” Jedrzejczyk said to TMZ Sports. “It’s more on my face, and like my neck. It’s going down, but it’s much better.”

    Although the swelling has gone down, Joanna Jedrzejczyk says she is set for surgery on Monday in Poland. She will get the swelling down from that and start her recovery process.

    “I scheduled surgery in Poland with the best plastic surgeon, so it’s all good. On Monday, I’ll have a small medical procedure on my ear and the swelling will go down and I will be ready to rock and roll go on some nice date. It is nothing serious,” she said. “UFC is always taking good care of us.”

    The former champ has said she is interested in fighting Zhang again. But, she will no doubt need time off after the war the two women went through at UFC 248.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  5. #35
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    More on Ma

    Ma Baoguo’s opponent ‘scared’ before KO’ing tai chi master in 30 seconds – and had to pay to fight
    Wang Qingmin tells local media he used Chinese kung fu style to knock out 69-year-old tai chi master in first interview since viral fight
    Amateur boxer has received no prize money and paid US$92 to fight Ma, who reportedly earned US$28,000 for 30-second bout

    Jonathan White
    Published: 10:48am, 27 May, 2020
    Updated: 11:29am, 27 May, 2020

    However, Wang said he beat Ma with a traditional Chinese kung fu style. He was registered as an MMA fighter but used the Chinese style of Xing Yi Quan, rather than Western martial arts as media reported.

    Referee asked tai chi master Ma Baoguo to show mercy before embarrassing 30-second KO
    Pre-fight footage emerges on Chinese social media showing referee expected tai chi master to deliver a one-sided beat down
    Referee appeals to 69-year-old to show mercy to his opponent – ‘when I say stop, you can’t continue to hit him’


    Jonathan White
    Published: 4:02pm, 21 May, 2020
    Updated: 6:25pm, 21 May, 2020




    A still from the video of tai chi master Ma Baoguo (right) talking to the referee ahead of his embarrassing 30-second knockout. Photo: Hupu

    The knockout of 69-year-old tai chi master Ma Baoguo by a former martial arts coach 20 years his junior in Shandong has been watched around the world, with fans in China and overseas ridiculing the older man for taking on the challenge.
    Ma was knocked down twice before being knocked out within 30 seconds and taken to hospital, where he recovered and has since left.
    However, footage from before the fight that shows a conversation between Ma and the fight referee shared on Chinese social media seems to indicate that they were expecting the fight to be one-sided the other way.
    The referee apparently appeals to Ma to show mercy to his opponent, telling him three times: “I have just one requirement, when I say stop you have to stop, you can’t continue to hit him.”

    Ma for his part warned the referee ahead of the fight, “I am afraid of my [tai chi] routine hurting you” to which the referee replied, “I am not afraid”.

    As it was, they were right about it being a one-sided fight.



    Ma had built a reputation for outlandish statements, calling UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili “stupid” and claiming that he could beat her in a fight.
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  6. #36
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    China rising



    The UFC Stars Kicking Chinese Martial Arts Into a New Era
    The breakout success of Chinese fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship is shaking up the country’s martial arts scene.

    Mathew Scott
    Feb 22, 2021 9-min read

    Li Jingliang has spent more than a decade establishing himself as an elite fighter in the world of mixed martial arts, with an explosive style and vice-like choke holds that earned him the nickname “The Leech.” But outside the cage is where the 32-year-old makes his biggest impact.

    “As well as fighting, what I’m trying to do is change the landscape of MMA in China,” Li tells Sixth Tone. “Little by little, step by step, I’m letting people know what I know.”

    Now ranked 12th in his division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — the highest rank achieved by a male Chinese athlete in the promotion — the welterweight born in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has emerged as a star with real clout in China.

    The charismatic fighter has acquired millions of followers on social media, appeared on TV talent shows, and even performed with rock bands. And he’s using this platform with one goal in mind: to inspire a new generation of Chinese mixed martial artists.

    What I’m trying to do is change the landscape of MMA in China.
    - Li Jingliang, UFC fighter
    Li’s feeds are filled with training videos explaining MMA and encouraging people to try it out. Each Saturday, he’s in a park near his Beijing home, running free sparring classes for local children.

    “Martial arts is rooted in our culture,” Li says. “I’m giving these kids a basic understanding of martial arts, and of mixed martial arts. I’ve committed myself to this and being seen in public is part of that. It’s spreading the message.”

    Li is part of a rising generation of Chinese fighters reshaping the UFC. They’re not only bringing legions of new fans to the sport, but also forging links between the worlds of MMA and Chinese martial arts that could turn China into a leading producer of fighting talent over the next few years.

    MMA is often considered the world’s fastest-growing sport. Emerging in the early ’90s, it sees fighters compete using a mix of different combat skills, with techniques drawn from the likes of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, and muay thai.

    But until relatively recently, MMA and its most famous franchise — the UFC — had barely made a dent in the Chinese market. Despite the country’s rich martial arts history and huge grassroots participation in combat sports, few Chinese fighters had heard of the UFC just a decade ago — let alone aspired to compete in it.


    Zhang Tiequan celebrates after defeating Jason Reinhardt of the USA during their featherweight bout at UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 27, 2011. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/People Visual

    That’s changing dramatically, however, as a handful of Chinese athletes start to find success in the octagon. The first UFC bout featuring a Chinese fighter came on Feb. 27, 2011, with Zhang Tiequan defeating the American featherweight Jason Reinhardt at UFC 127 in Australia.

    Today, China has 12 fighters competing in the UFC, and it even has its first world champion: Zhang Weili, who claimed the women’s strawweight title in 2019. Like Li, the 30-year-old Zhang — who isn’t related to Zhang Tiequan — sees herself as a role model for young Chinese athletes and encourages them to follow the path she has forged in life through her dedication to martial arts.

    “Years ago, a UFC championship looked far off in the distance for China,” Zhang Weili said ahead of her most recent title defense, an epic split-decision victory over Poland’s Joanna Jędrzejczyk in Las Vegas last March. “Now, we have it, and I hope I can give Chinese fighters more motivation to fight.”

    Zhang Weili’s breakout victories have helped the UFC rapidly emerge as one of China’s most popular sports franchises. In 2020, the promotion’s following on China’s Twitter-like Weibo grew nearly 40% to just under 2.2 million, while on Douyin — China’s version of TikTok — it jumped 157% to 7.1 million, according to figures supplied by the UFC.


    Zhang Weili celebrates following her split-decision victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland in their UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 248 event in Las Vegas, USA, March 7, 2020. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/People Visual

    “Chinese fighters are having a huge impact on getting the UFC into the mainstream,” Kevin Chang, senior vice president of the UFC’s Asia-Pacific operation, tells Sixth Tone. “It’s not just Zhang Weili, it’s extending into up-and-coming athletes and our veterans. All of them are trending.”

    As its fan base in China grows, the UFC is increasingly looking to the country to expand its roster of fighters. The promotion itself is investing heavily to develop Chinese talent, opening a $13 million performance institute in Shanghai in 2019, where 40 top young athletes are currently training.

    A number of people inside China’s MMA scene, meanwhile, tell Sixth Tone the UFC’s growing profile is attracting more young athletes to take up the sport. “The Leech” knows firsthand how important this shift could be.

    Now, there’s more attention on MMA than on any other combat sport in China.
    - Li Jingliang, UFC fighter
    As a child growing up in the Xinjiang countryside, Li started off as a wrestler and was even offered a wrestling scholarship by a local sports academy. But watching his first MMA event on television in 2008 “changed everything,” he says, convincing him to move to Beijing and try to make it as a pro fighter.

    “In my generation, if a person said, ‘I want to be an MMA athlete,’ there were a lot of critics — in society, among your family and friends,” Li says. “They just didn’t know what it was. I was very lucky, because my parents supported me … But now, there’s more attention on MMA than on any other combat sport in China.”

    Yi Xiemu is one of the young hopefuls hoping to become China’s next UFC star. The 16-year-old trains at the Enbo Fight Club — a gym in the southwestern city of Chengdu that hosts around 400 fighters, some of them local orphans.

    “I like MMA because it’s so powerful,” says Yi, who grew up in Aba Prefecture, a remote area northwest of Chengdu. “Training is very tiring, but I can persist … I’ve learned that in MMA, you have to continue training, keep fighting no matter what.”

    At Enbo, Yi benefits from training every day with UFC professional Su Mudaerji. The 25-year-old flyweight, currently ranked 14th in his division, has been in the club since he was a boy and now plays an important role mentoring its junior members.

    “I want to show them what’s possible if you work hard enough,” Su, also an Aba Prefecture native, tells Sixth Tone.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  7. #37
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    continued from previous post


    Su Mudaerji (right) punches Zarrukh Adashev of Uzbekistan during their flyweight bout at the UFC Fight Night event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 20, 2021. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Zhang Tiequan, China’s first UFC fighter, is also using his experience to welcome a new generation of fighters. Since hanging up his gloves in 2012, the now-42-year-old has become a driving force behind China Top Team —one of the country’s leading MMA gyms. As a coach at the Beijing-based facility, he’s already helped chart the rise of Li, as well as the surging talent Yan Xiaonan, UFC’s third-ranked women’s strawweight.

    Chinese gyms have a natural head start when it comes to training world-class fighters, according to Zhang Tiequan. Unlike in other countries, where fighters normally transition from wrestling or jiu-jitsu to MMA, many Chinese youngsters start out training in kungfu or sanda — a native form of kickboxing that also incorporates wrestling and foot sweep techniques. Zhang followed this route himself, and he believes the wider range of skills he honed through sanda gave him an edge in the cage.

    “I started as a wrestler, then I was introduced to sanda,” says Zhang. “I could box, I could kick, I could wrestle. I think this sport gives Chinese fighters an advantage when it comes to MMA and the UFC because of those skills.”

    Song Yadong, the UFC’s 14th-ranked bantamweight, echoes this sentiment. His fighting career began at just 9 years old, when he convinced his parents to let him train at one of the famed kungfu schools surrounding the Shaolin Temple in Central China. From there, he transitioned into sanda, then began training with Chengdu’s Enbo Fight Club, before completing his MMA apprenticeship under the tutelage of UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber in California.


    Students practice open hand strikes at the Shaolin Yongzhi Kungfu School in Dengfeng, Henan province. Courtesy of Matthew Scott

    “Those kungfu skills I learned when I was 9 made me even more talented when I was practicing mixed martial arts,” Song tells Sixth Tone. “Chinese martial arts inspired me and taught me to mix the static with the dynamic, to understand that things can be true and false, and to fight with a capricious style.”

    To many in China’s MMA circles, Song’s journey from Shaolin to UFC success is a blueprint for the future. Joe Qiao Bo, a veteran MMA coach and ambassador for the sport in China, says the country’s martial arts schools are filled with young fighters with the potential to become pro MMA fighters.

    “There are a lot of young people getting into MMA, but the real numbers — the real giant pool of fighters — is still not activated,” says Qiao. “The real numbers are still in martial arts schools.”

    In the area around the Shaolin Temple alone, there are scores of martial arts venues, some of them housing as many as 40,000 teenage students. Qiao, who also serves as a consultant for the MMA department of the Chinese Boxing Federation, spends much of his time in the region, working to deepen ties between the schools and the fledgling MMA movement.

    “We are trying to activate that connection,” he says. “They (the students in Shaolin) are teenagers, and now is the perfect time to introduce them to MMA.”


    Joe Qiao Bo visits the Shaolin Yongzhi Kungfu School in Dengfeng, Henan province, 2019. Courtesy of Matthew Scott

    Wang Zhan, a coach at the Enbo Fight Club, has already noticed an uptick in the number of kids arriving in Chengdu from Shaolin, wanting to learn the new sport.

    “In the past three years, many people have been joining,” says Wang. “The UFC has indeed improved everyone’s knowledge of MMA in China … There are many fighters like Song Yadong.”

    There are a lot of young people getting into MMA, but the real giant pool of fighters is still not activated.
    - Joe Qiao Bo, MMA coach
    Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing effort to build up MMA as an amateur sport in China, ensuring young fighters have more opportunities to develop before turning pro.

    As elsewhere, MMA was for professionals only in China until just a few years ago. But in 2012, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) was set up to turn MMA into a globally recognized amateur sport. One day, the goal is for MMA to be accepted as an Olympic event.

    The IMMAF and the Chinese Boxing Federation have begun organizing amateur competitions and promoting coaching programs in China. Chinese fighters also regularly compete in the IMMAF’s global competitions, with Han Guangmei the current women’s world bantamweight champion.

    Qiao, who coordinates the work of the Chinese and international bodies, views these initiatives as vital to getting the sport on more sustainable footing.“We need to build a pathway for the fighters,” he says. “We need to push this toward the Olympics, like other combat sports.”

    If these efforts pay off, China may once more emerge as a global center for combat sports. According to Qiao, if Chinese fighters dig deep enough into the country’s martial arts heritage, they could even show the UFC a new way to fight.

    “In MMA right now, people will either strike or they’ll do grappling,” he says. “But the beauty of real kungfu lies in the middle. How do you put your opponent off balance, and then strike? There is an element of this tripping in kungfu that no one is using in MMA. I call this the missing link. That’s what we’re working on now.”

    Editor: Dominic Morgan.

    (Header image: Li Jingliang reacts after his knockout victory over Santiago Ponzinibbio of Argentina in a welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 17, 2021. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/People Visual)
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