Monday , August 8 2022

MMA: From Shaolin Temple to MMA Star – Meet China's Monkey King, Sports News & Top Stories


BEIJING (AFP) – Song Yadong was so obsessed with Chinese martial arts that he convinced him to pack him up and send him to learn at the feet of the famous Shaolin royal masters.

He was only nine years old then.

"I had seen many Kung Fu movies, so I wanted to be like my heroes like Jet Li," said Song. "I went to Shaolin and exercised me and stood up every day at 5 o'clock. It was harder than I ever expected."

A decade later and Songs Thirst for Action has led him to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and on to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts.

"I left Shaolin after two years and then I learned about MMA," said the 20-year-old. "I like the action, I like every fight testing you and always having to work to be the best fighter you can be."

The song is at the forefront of Las Vegas-based marketing campaigns in China, the country many consider the spiritual home of all martial arts and the Tianjin-born fighter is among nine locals who are keen to attend the UFC's first match card to be held in it Chinese capital.

Saturday (November 24th), the UFC Fight Night 141 event takes place at Beijing's Cadillac Arena, appreciated by a struggle between the heavyweight contestants Cameroon Frenchman Francis "Predator" Ngannou (11-3) and American Curtis "Razor" Blaydes.

But there is no doubt that Chinese fans' attention – and hope – will rest.

"It will be the greatest chance for us Chinese warriors and for sports to grow in China," said Song, who will meet US Vince "Vandetta" Morales on Saturday night.

The song's rise to the UFC has caught China's attention, as well as the story of origin he carries with him.

When he was 15, Song was so focused on becoming a professional MMA fighter as he used a forged ID card to convince local campaigns that he was 18 years old and legally allowed to fight.

"I was super-aggressive then," said Song. "I just wanted to fight so I used the fake ID card. I looked strong enough to believe me."

After completing his trade in domestic and regional campaigns – winning a match of 10 wins and three losses – Song received a surprise call in November, just a few weeks before the UFC was going to make its debut on the mainland.

Called in to replace a injured fighter on the UFC Fight Night 122 card, Song needed more than four minutes to choke India's Bharat Khandare. He has since backed up this result with a second-round knockout by Brazilian veteran Filipe Arantes in Singapore in June, and then comes to Beijing on a 2-0 run and with a 12-3 win loss record overall.

"There is still much room for improvement of my skills," said Song. "I'm focused on winning step by step, fighting in battle. I've been training with Urijah Faber and his Team Alpha Male in California and I'm learning.

"Chinese warriors need more experience but soon we will be a force."

UFC currently has 11 Chinese fighters on its books, a mix of established stars like veteran welterweight Li "The Leech" Jingliang and rising stars as Song and female strawweight Zhang Weili, with all three in action on Saturday.

This week, the organization announced a $ 13 million ($ 17.8 million) investment in what is called the world's largest MMA academy in Shanghai, intended to help Chinese warriors switch from lesser fighting campaigns to the UFC Octagon.

Song has recently replaced "The Terminator" as its match name with "The Monkey King", referring to the mythical Chinese hero Sun Wukong.

He believes that China's rich history in martial arts has landed – and its struggles – well positioned as MMA continues to grab.

"We have the history in China," said Song. "This is just the beginning."

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