“We joked with (Zhang) Tiequan before his fight, though it was actually half true, “You better win the fight, or you'll have to go back to collecting garbage for a living.””
Such is the circumstances that propelled the Chinese MMA fighters from obscurity in the sport just 10 years ago, to having the first Chinese UFC champion in @zhangweilimma
, the first ever Asian to hold the UFC belt.
Her coach, retired fighter-turned-IT professional-turned-coach-turned-movie director @VincentSoberano
shared his insights about the early days of MMA in China, and how his focus on strength and conditioning dramatically paid off for his fighters.
“I started training the Chinese fighters back in 2005. Zhang Weili was very promising from the beginning. I watched her come into the gym and get beat up by the guys. She even refused to spar with the girls.
A lot of people told us we’ll never make it. They say Asians are smaller, we don’t have the conditioning like Americans and Brazilians, Chinese martial arts don’t have wrestling, etc.
We persevered through all that. I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I believed that I could bring the Chinese fighters to a world class UFC level. When Weili won the belt, the long road that we had been on is now justified.”
Vincent has a really interesting life story of his own. Follow us for more incredible stories of martial artists.