China has a distinguished martial arts history and this is epitomized by Huang Di Yuan, who won the ONE: Dynasty of Champions 145-pound tournament in Guangzhou last month. The 22-year-old can trace his Kung Fu ancestry back several generations and began training as an infant.
“My father is a traditional Kung Fu master. He used to own a martial arts school, but now he only gives private classes. I became interested in martial arts when I was about 4 and my nickname in school was ‘Kung Fu Boy’ because I was always showing off fancy kicks and moves.”
While the heritage of Kung Fu can be traced back several centuries, MMA is the ultimate testing ground for a modern martial artist. Huang didn’t set out specifically to acquire the skills to compete in the cage, but he stumbled across several disciplines that would leave him ideally prepared for a professional career.
“When I was 17, I picked up Sanda and BJJ, but back then I had no idea what MMA was. I went to study in Pennsylvania and there I was doing wrestling, Sambo, and Judo. Once I got back home, I took four months off to travel around China and spend time at different schools like the Shaolin school to learn more about Kung Fu.”
In 2013, he decided to focus on BJJ and headed to a team in the country’s capital, which is making a big name for itself on the Chinese MMA scene.
“Two years ago, I heard that Big King in Beijing had really good BJJ coaching, so I headed over to check it out. After six months, I realized I was good at it and improving quicker than others who had started at around the same time as me and that’s when I started to become more serious about MMA.”
The ONE: Dynasty of Champions fights won’t be released for a few more days, but Huang stopped Jian She Tian in the semifinal and won a decision over Jia Wen Ma in the final.
“I think I finished my first opponent brutally. I felt bad for him before the fight had even started. The second fight, it was intense because I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, but my game plan worked like magic. I sent him the low kick from hell and right after first round he starts limping. I was dominating the fight and I think if the second round had lasted a few more seconds, he would have gone down.”
ONE Championship is increasingly focused on China and Chinese fighters now feature on nearly every single card. It means future opportunities for Huang should be plentiful and he is particularly enthusiastic about competing under the global MMA rule set.
This was the second ONE: Dynasty of Champions card. The first took place in Beijing last December and Li Kai Wen won the 145-pound tournament. A fight between the winners seems an obvious move for the promotion and Huang says it’s a possibility he is already preparing for.
“I was sitting in the stadium that night. Li Kai Wen and me are from same province in China and he’s a great fighter, but the opponent I beat in the final is his teammate and they’ve all got almost same style of fighting skills. I figured out once, I’ll figure out twice.”
China has a population of 1.35 billion people, so fighters there don’t need to get too hung up on whether or not they have global appeal, but this outspoken and English-educated Kung Fu specialist definitely has the potential to become major ONE Championship star.
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