Over the last couple of years, China has emerged as a regular destination point for international combat sports, especially kickboxing.
However, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when taking into consideration two main factors: Firstly, the ageless history of martial arts tradition and knowledge that has originated from China; and secondly, the fact that the Chinese economy has grown tremendously over the last decade and a half (despite any uncertainties it may currently face).
The two main Chinese fight promotions that are well known outside of China are Kunlun Fight and WLF. Both have the ability to attract international kickboxers to fight in China and have had the likes of, current GLORY heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven and former GLORY featherweight champion, Gabriel Varga fighting in China.
Recent events by both Kunlun Fight and Wu Lin Feng (WLF) have included the following match-ups:
Kunlun Fight 43 (15th April 2016):
Artur Kyshenko vs Murthel Groenhart
A rematch between two titans from their previous encounter in the, K-1 Max 70 kg Tournament Final in 2012 which Groenhart won by KO, and the two of them had been training partners at the time at Mike’s Gym. Kyshenko would get the better of Groenhart this time via unanimous decision (UD) after an extra round.
Sittichai Sitsongpeenong vs Mohammed Hamicha Moojte
This was the 4-man (qualifying) tournament final on the night, which for the winner, would secure a place in the 8-man Tournament later in the year. Sittichai is widely regarded as the best kickboxing /Thai boxing lightweight in the world right now and has given plenty of elite kickboxers in his weight class a torrid time. However, Moojte, who is based in the Netherlands, gave Sittichai a rough time and even knocked him down in the first round with an uppercut. Sittichai would secure the win eventually after an extra round by UD, but Moojte’s profile has significantly increased since then (his name was spelt differently by Kunlun as ‘Mohammed Mezouari’).
WLF – Glory of Heroes (2nd April 2016):
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Adesanya is from New Zealand and is a very skillful and exciting kickboxer to watch who, is also pursuing a career in MMA as well. Pereira is a Brazilian kickboxer who, made the transition from boxing to kickboxing in recent years. Both have fought for GLORY in the past and have come a long way since then. The winner by unanimous decision was Pereira, which did surprise me at the time.
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Yi Long is probably the most famous Chinese kickboxing monk in the world and Kehl is the K-1 World Max 2014 Tournament winner (as a result of Buakaw leaving the ring when an extra round was called for) and is from Germany. Four of Kehl’s last six fights have either been under the Kunlun or WLF banner, however, Yi Long would get the win by unanimous decision.
Josh Jauncey vs Xu Yan
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British Canadian kickboxer, Josh Jauncey, was the winner by delivering a devastating left head kick knockout in the third round. Jauncey has been on a recent run of good form since his loss (by unanimous decision) to Giorgio Petrosyan at GLORY 25 last year. As for Xu Yan, he is a multiple Sanhsou Chinese champion and was the more experienced fighter having fought in Japan for ‘K-1’ as far back as 2008.
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French-Italian Muay Thai legend, Fabio Pinca, who had previously won the Lion Fight welterweight title in 2013 by decision over Malaipet Sasiprapa, had been on a five fight win streak prior to this fight but lost by split decision to the home fighter.
Andrei Ostrovanu vs Zhang Dezheng
Ostrovanu is of Romanian descent (but if I am correct, has grown up in England) and won by unanimous decision. He is a young kick boxer who, I can recall was fighting on regional kickboxing shows here in the UK with some powerful performances not too long and then went onto fight Mohammed Jaraya in Enfusion (he lost that fight by stoppage but he certainly challenged Jaraya)
As for Dezheng (the home fighter), from what I’ve seen of him in his fight a couple of years ago with the explosive Australian, Brad Riddell, he’s a durable fighter and no pushover.
Here is his fight with Riddell:
From the above seven match-ups, 10 of the 14 fighters are known reasonably well in the western world by kickboxing enthusiasts.
The quality of international kickboxing match-ups by the Chinese has certainly been of a very good level – some may say that they have even managed to deliver better match-ups than GLORY at times.
It certainly is very interesting times for kickboxing in China and with regular shows throughout the year being hosted by the Chinese – especially Kunlun – it can only help the sport of kickboxing to develop on a global scale which has been a struggle in recent years since the financial crisis a few years ago that brought ‘K-1’ to its knees and the rapid growth and popularity of MMA.
Kunlun aren’t complacent with simply hosting events in China alone. They recently hosted Kunlun Fight 44 on the 14th May in Russia and their following event, Kunlun Fight 45, will be in South Korea on the 22nd May 2016, before they then return to China on the 6th June 2016.
Can the Chinese sustain a financially viable operation of not only promoting international kickboxing events and a spectacle of a show, while continuing to attract a wealth of fighting talent from around the world? Only time will tell but I know that I’m certainly not the only one that hopes that they will, for the sake of breathing long term life back into the world of kickboxing.