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Zhao Zhi Kang’s martial arts journey set him up for success in ONE

Rising Chinese star recounts how his martial arts journey took him to the ONE cage



ONE Championship

Chinese star Zhao Zhi Kang makes his return to the ONE Championship cage looking to build on his spectacular debut performance three months ago.

The 23-year-old featherweight will take on Pakistan’s Waqar “Psycho” Umar at ONE: IRON WILL on Saturday, 24 March at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.

And the Chinese sanda champion is keen to continue his winning ways following his first-round submission win over Cambodia’s Thai Rithy on his ONE debut.

The rising star was raised in Inner Mongolia, China and grew up in a farming family that worked tirelessly farming crops on the town’s mountainside. It meant Zhao had to learn independence from an early age.

“When you are born into a farming family, you will become more mature than kids the same age in most situations, because you need to help your parents do a lot of work,” he said.

“Sometimes, my parents got home very late, so I learned to cook simple dishes for myself to snack on while I was waiting for them to come home from farming.”

Despite the demands of running their farm, Zhao’s parents made sure they found enough time to spend with their son.

“My parents are very warm, outgoing people,” said Zhao.

“My father and I have the best relationship ever. We are like brothers.”

As he started to grow up, Zhao found sport a natural fit for his personality, and he excelled in athletics. Like many kids, he suffered at the hands of bullies during his schooldays, but he ended up finding martial arts after being inspired by movies.

“When I was a kid, I liked to watch Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li action movies,” he said.

“That was the trigger that got me interested in learning martial arts.”

His parents enrolled him in a martial arts academy where he excelled in sanda, and eventually went on to capture a national sanda championship. Later he would discover Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it would transform his martial arts journey.

“I love how gentle strength can overcome a strong attack,” he said.

“This really affected me a lot in my future career path, as I made the switch from sanda to the cage.”

Zhao says finding martial arts has changed his life, and taught him valuable life lessons as he embarks on his career in the cage.

“The most important thing I have learned is you should never give up, and martial arts can give you the inner peace, and tough armour at the same time. It gives you a good balance.”

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.


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