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China: Around The Nation

Chinese entrepreneur stumps up US$1.45 million purse to defeat MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong

Prize to be split over five bouts, says founder of drinks empire

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 May, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2017, 8:20am

A Chinese tycoon is offering a total of 10 million yuan ($US1.45 million) to anyone who can defeat the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who sparked a storm over the merits of traditional martial arts versus modern combat.

Chen Sheng, the multimillionaire entrepreneur who founded the Tiandi No. 1 drinks company, has raised the stakes to “defend the dignity” of martial artists after tai chi master Wei Lei was pounded into submission in under 10 seconds by MMA fighter, coach and promoter Xu Xiaodong.

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Chen’s prize money will be allotted over five separate matches against Xu, who has been openly accepting challenges from martial arts masters from around China, the Information Times reported.

The winner of each bout will pocket 1.5 million yuan (US$218,000 or HK$1.7 million, while the loser will take home 500,000 yuan. Chen said he was willing to allow Xu to take home millions if he wins.

“I want him to understand, he used this kind of extreme method to provoke Chinese traditional culture, and will need to pay the price,” said Chen, who also known as “the king of pork” in Guangzhou where he launched the Guangdong No. 1 Food Co.

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The initial duel between Wei and Xu in Chengdu, Sichuan province followed an online quarrel, in which Xu had dismissed traditional martial arts as being a fraud. The ensuing high-profile match – live streamed to more than 1 million viewers – stirred up a nationwide debate about the legitimacy of Chinese martial arts, which have over 2,000 years of history and are a point of pride for many people.

“From what I can see, Chinese martial arts has a long history,” Chen told the Information Times. “Tai chi is used more for exercise and self-cultivation. Many of my friends practise it, and China has millions of tai chi aficionados. Are they saying all of this is false?”

Xu, who is trained in kung fu free-combat, shot to fame after the initial match, and has loudly criticised traditional martial arts for being outdated and “a lie” without combat purposes.

“[I] crack down on fake things, because they are fake. Fake things must be eliminated. No question,” Xu, nicknamed “madman” by fans for his ruthless fighting style, told the Global Times.

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Earlier this week, he challenged martial artists around the country through posts on his Weibo microblog, even bragging that he could take on two or three at a time. In a Weibo post on Monday, Xu said the founder of a kickboxing television programme would fork out 1.2 million yuan if he accepted challenges from different martial artists.

Defenders of traditional martial arts have taken up the call, including tai chi masters Lu Xing and Wang Zhanhai; Shaolin Chinese boxer Li Shangxian, and Yi Long, a monk and renowned martial artist.

Lu, the president of the Sichuan tai chi pushing hands research institute, told the Chengdu Business News: “[Xu] is deeply biased against the traditional martial arts and his words were insulting. I challenged him so he could have a fresh perspective of tai chi and the true traditional martial arts.”

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In subsequent interviews this week, Wei blamed his embarrassing defeat on reasons ranging from slipping on a new pair of shoes with rubber soles, to avoid causing “a loss of life”, and because winning would cause “disharmony”.

The Chinese Wushu Association said in a statement on Wednesday that the Xu-Wei match, where they were “throwing down the gauntlet”, violates martial arts ethics and potentially the law.

“Martial arts is a traditional Chinese sport as well as an excellent traditional culture that includes various forms like martial arts repertoire and free combat,” they said. “We are strongly against such bouts, especially scuffles held in the name of eliminating fake martial arts which are more about fighting and pure aggressiveness.”