‘He who endures rises to the top’

‘He who endures rises to the top’

ONE Fighting Championship had a busy 2014, with inaugural competitions in Phnom Penh, mainland China and Dubai. It aims to continue that energy into 2015 and has just announced that its first blockbuster event of 2015 will be in Kuala Lumpur on March 13 – ONE FC: Age of Champions. This will be the sixth event the promotion has had in Malaysia. While no fight card has been announced yet, fans can expect to see popular names such as Peter Davis and Gianni Subba. ONE FC spoke with Li Kai Wen, who was crowned featherweight champion at ONE FC: Dynasty of Champions in Beijing on December 19. The Tianjin native, 19, is a hot prospect and is one to watch as he continues his ascent up the global MMA rankings.

Li Kai Wen, ONE FC featherweight champion
Li Kai Wen, ONE FC featherweight champion

How did you discover MMA?
I first discovered MMA when I was training in wrestling and saw videos online of Anderson Silva. Since the day I knew what MMA was, I’ve been hooked. My friend, Zhang Li Peng introduced me to the K-1 club in Tianjin. If I was never introduced to K-1 club, there’s no way I’d reach the skill level I’m at now. I appreciate that introduction more than anything.

How has ONE FC coming to China helped MMA in your country?
Now that ONE FC is here in China, the sport has really taken off. ONE FC is a top-notch organisation that produces some of the best fights in the world. Now that ONE FC is here everyone in China is learning about it and falling in love with it.

Until now, China has been missing shows like this – a place for fighters to prove themselves on the global stage. Before ONE FC came to China, fighters here have been competing in smaller shows in random parts of the country with no stability. Now that ONE FC is here, watch China’s MMA talent explode!

What makes the K-1 Club such a strong team?
Every team has pros and cons, so we can’t say K-1 has no flaws. But, we’re here for the long run, our hype won’t fade. Fans won’t know we’re great because of what we say. They’ll know because they’ll see it with their own eyes. We will show we can walk the walk.

Why is your conditioning so good?
I give all the credit to my coaches. But really, our training method isn’t a secret. There are times in training I can’t crawl back to my feet, and my coaches will run us through a “shark tank” drill designed to break us down. If we don’t fight to our feet we’ll get beaten up by seven or eight different guys. Of course, I hate that drill, but I know I need it so I just grit my teeth till I eventually succeed. In China, we have a saying: “The man who endures hardship will be the one who rises to the top.”

What do your tattoos represent?
The tattoo on my ribs represents my wish for a stable family. My parents divorced when I was 8-years-old and there was no one at home from then on. I had to train wrestling every day from that point. It seems like fate has decided I’ll be a fighter this lifetime.

What are your goals?
One step at a time. My goal for 2015 is to win the ONE FC China national featherweight title. After that I’ll focus on winning the ONE FC world title and bring more glory to K-1 Club.

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