The search for an MMA star in China

30 Jun , 2016,
Richard Mann

This weekend two high level promotions will put on shows in China. Road FC 32 takes place Saturday in Hunan, while on the same day One Championship hosts “Dynasty of Champions 6” in Anhui.

Several combat sports promotions have tried to make a big push into the county with limited success. Even the UFC tried with their regular trojan horse that is “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show and also promoted three events in Macau. The effort appears to have stalled with the release of the UFC’s Managing Director of Asia, Mark Fischer

Of course, one of the biggest issues with international expansion is finding a homegrown star who can both connect with fans and stay relevant in the non-predetermined world of MMA. Currently there are only 14 Chinese fighters in the Fight Matrix rankings, so finding that star will be difficult. Road FC and One Championship have taken different approaches to this task.

The undercard of Road FC includes a pair of UFC veterans with Chinese heritage, Jumabieke Tuerxun and Albert Cheng. The two combined to go 0-4 in the UFC. In the main event Aori Gele, a 320-pound Chinese Sanda fighter with a 1-2 MMA record, faces Bob Sapp.

During their trips to China, One Championship has appeared to focus on developing local talent. The cards often include tournaments of fighters with only a few professional fights. Assuming the plan is that the cream will eventually rise to the top, fans and promoters better be prepared to wait. Of the nine Chinese fighters on the card only two have more than one professional win.

List of Chinese Fighters in Fight Matrix Rankings

Fighter Weight Class Rank Last Fought For
Weili Zhang W-Strawweight 39 Top Fighting Championship
Zhifa Shang Flyweight 137 Unknown
Jingliang Li Welterweight 148 UFC
Guangyou Ning Bantamweight 158 UFC
Heili Alateng Bantamweight 189 Road FC
Handong Kong Light Heavyweight 202 Art of War
Zilong Zhao Light Heavyweight 212 Road FC
Kenan Song Middleweight 215 Superstar Fight
Lipeng Zhang Welterweight 277 Kunlun Fight
Xian Ji Bantamweight 295 Wu Lin Feng
Rijirigala Amu Featherweight 306 Art of War
Chengjie Wu Featherweight 352 M-1
Wenbo Liu Middleweight 365 Wu Lin Feng
Liucai Cui Featherweight 437 WBK