According to official records, Chinese bantamweight Jumabieke Tuerxun has a 14-0 professional record, but has been out of action since a November 2012 win at Ruff 6. Statistics don’t always tell the whole story and the latest addition to the UFC roster, who makes his debut in Macau on Saturday, has certainly been keeping busier than that.
“I have had 30 professional fights since I started fighting and I have never lost. Many of the events we have in China has no internet or people providing information to foreign media. I cannot even count how many fights I have had since Ruff, but I know that in January I fought three times,” he said.
Although he normally competes at 135 pounds, Jumabieke will be moving up to featherweight to face Mark Eddiva at the TUF China Finale. The Filipino is also undefeated, with a 5-0 record, but he has not fought for three years.
The gulf in experience has led some to suggest that Eddiva represents a comparatively gentle introduction to the UFC, but Jumabieke is adamant that he will not underestimate his opponent.
“No fight is ever easy and if Mark is not up to par the UFC would not have signed him. Whether it was easy or not can only be decided in hindsight after a victory. Nothing is ever easy. If I train hard, maybe it will look easy, but trust me, nothing is ever easy,” he said.
Jumabieke is based at X’ian Sports University where he trains alongside many of the top fighters in China and is coached by Bellator welterweight Vaughn Anderson, but in preparation for this fight, he has travelled to Phuket Top Team, partly to escape the harsh winter conditions back home.
“I needed to get out of cold weather and the guys here at PTT has been really good at helping me with my skill sets. Phuket has a big reputation for being center of MMA training in Asia and it’s been a wish of mine to train here and see what it is all about,” he said.
A few eyebrows were raised when it was announced Jumabieke would be fighting for the UFC as a featherweight. He normally competes at 135 pounds and plans to drop back down to this division after the bout with Eddiva.
“I signed with UFC at end of January and I was at home in Xinjiang to celebrate Chinese New Year. Immediately after my last fight in January, I was going to take some time off to be with my parents, and aside from the freezing cold weather, I have been feasting every night with family and friends. It’s hard to cut weight and train in that kind of conditions and everything was short notice and I wanted to fight as soon as possible. In the future I will be fighting at 135.”
Jumabieke has finally been able to secure his fighting future with the UFC, but the contractual situation that delayed his promotional debut for an entire year was complex… to put it mildly. He won the Legend FC 135-pound title in 2012, but then promptly left the organization when it emerged he had a pre-existing contract with Ruff.
He was then set to challenge for the Ruff title, but was withdrawn from the match-up after declining to sign a contract extension.
“Ruff initially told us that if we are undefeated, we will fight in a million dollar RMB fight event for each of our weight divisions, but when the million dollar fight came up, they asked us to sign a two-year contract in order to participate in the fight,” explained Jumabieke. “At that time, the UFC was looking for talent and I decided that I did not want to sign a two-year contract because I thought the opportunity with the UFC is much bigger, thus I decided to give up the final event and sign with UFC.”
In March 2012, Jumabieke’s UFC signing was widely reported by the MMA media and his name even appeared on the official website, but to his horror Legend FC successfully blocked him from appearing in the Octagon because of a pre-existing contract he had signed with them.
“Legend did give many opportunities to fighters to fight and did good matchmaking, but I was surprised and shocked that they tried to sabotage my career with the UFC. It’s so devastating to me that I really don’t want to talk about it because it is almost a year of my life derailed, but I am glad the matter has been resolved and my career is back on track,” he said.
It’s not a saga that Jumabieke will look back on with and pride or fondness, but as one of only three Chinese fighters on the UFC roster, the 27-year-old should have plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time in the coming months and is fortunate that he has at least been able to stay active, even if none of his recent wins have found their way into the official record books.
At the TUF China Finale, which is set for the Cotai Arena in Macau, Jumabieke will become the first fighter from Xian Sports University to ever compete inside the Octagon. It is the culmination of almost nine years work for him and his coaching team.
“I moved to Xian in 2005 because I was recruited by the freestyle wrestling team in my province. In 2006 I won the Chinese National Wrestling Championship and also an International freestyle wrestling championship and in 2008 I joined the Sanda team, which is headed by Coach Zhao Xue Jun and gets many top medals and championships,” he said.
With a background in wrestling, Jumabieke needed to get his striking skills up to scratch before making the transition to MMA. With a sizeable stable of Sanda stars, Xian was the perfect place for him to do that.
“I started to do MMA in 2008. I have watched UFC and Pride videos before and thought that it was very exciting and am a big fan of MMA. I was watching the Xian Sports Institute Sanda team taking part in MMA fights and I immediately asked my coach to let me have a try. He sent me over to the Sanda team to fight and eventually I started fighting in MMA events. I love the sport,” he said.
With TUF China coach Tiequan Zhang currently 1-3 in the UFC and welterweight Jingliang Li not scheduled to make his debut yet, the pressure is on Jumabieke to represent the most populated country on the planet inside the Octagon. He is well aware of the burden of expectation as he prepares to face Eddiva.
“The UFC is the biggest MMA event in the world, so of course I am nervous as I am the second guy from China to sign directly with UFC. When I step in the cage, my mind goes blank and all I can think of is beating my opponent. I hope that I can showcase Chinese martial arts to the world.”
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