China’s Li Kai Wen (6-3) has not graced the ONE Championship cage in nearly a year and a half, but he is preparing to make a definitive statement in his long-awaited return.
The man known as “Black Horse” is scheduled to clash with Pakistan’s Ahmed “Wolverine” Mujtaba (8-1) in a three-round featherweight affair at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 24 November.
“There is no way this bout will go to the judges,” the 22-year-old Tianjin, China resident states confidently.
“I believe that I am more athletically gifted than Ahmed, and I believe that my team of coaches are more diverse. I am prepared for whatever Ahmed brings. With that said, I will enter the cage, implement my skills, and impose my will.”
Li has been honing those skills ever since he was a child. In fact, martial arts has been passed down to him from generation to generation.
Born into a family of martial artists, Li’s father was a traditional martial arts instructor in Zhangjiajie, a city located in the northwestern sector of the Hunan Province, and his mother was a homemaker.
By the time Li was eight, however, his parents divorced, throwing his life into turmoil. He temporarily lived with his dad, but only until he was enrolled into the Hunan Sports Vocational College, where he trained and competed in wrestling as an emotional escape.
Driven to train every single day, Li excelled at the sport, even garnering over 50 wins in competition, but was picked on mercilessly by some of his elder teammates. That led to quite a few altercations, both verbal and physical.
“I was bullied by older team members and got into fights constantly,” he recalls. “There is a tradition of hazing at my school, which instigated many fights and arguments among teammates.
“I stayed and trained at my school until I turned 18. My entire childhood and adolescent years were spent there, so instead of having a ‘normal childhood’ living at home with my family, I lived among teammates. I followed the regulations of the school, and the coaches were my guardians.”
Soon after his 18th birthday, he redirected his attention from the wrestling mats to the cage. He began training under the careful eye of boxing coach Yu Yang at Tianjin Top Team, which also boasts fellow ONE talents Ma Jia Wen and “The Stalker” Xie Bin.
“I started training when I turned 18, out of the sheer love for the sport and the competitiveness of it,” he explains. “It is a complete sport, which allows me to demonstrate and showcase all aspects of being a well-rounded athlete.”
In December 2014, just six months into his training and with a few matches under his belt, Li made his ONE Championship debut as a participant in the ONE Featherweight Beijing Tournament 2014.
His undeniable talent and hard work shone through, as he won a pair of back-to-back matches to become the tournament champion.
Ever since that fateful night, he has continued to nurture his skills and build upon his success. “Black Horse” was victorious in his next two outings, but fell to reigning ONE Lightweight and Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen. Undeterred, he then rebounded with a crucial unanimous decision win over top Malaysian contender Keanu Subba.
Li then took a break from competition to further hone his skills at various facilities all across California in the United States. The world-renowned gyms he visited to stock his arsenal includes the likes of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Millennia MMA in Rancho Cucamonga, and Kings MMA in Huntington Beach.
Now, he is ready to showcase all that he has learned.
“I would like to use this opportunity to demonstrate to the fans that I have kept training, and still pursued my dream of the [featherweight world title] belt,” he says.
At only 22 years of age, Li is developing into one of the brightest young talents in the featherweight division. He is a dangerous striker, a formidable grappler, and has lots of room to grow.
Beyond that, the Chinese athlete wants to put in the hard work and time. For him, the martial arts is much more than a career choice, but rather a lifestyle.
“Martial arts taught me the importance of discipline, respect, and determination, among many other spiritual principles which I try my best to adhere to in my everyday life, such as honesty, punctuality, persistence, and courage.”
Singapore | 24 November | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onepursuit17