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China: Around The Nation

Tai chi master ‘sabotaged fight’, MMA fighter claims after police halt Shanghai contest

‘Mad Dog’ Xu Xiaodong accuses opponent of asking his nephew to contact the authorities before the bout began in ‘shameful day’ for martial arts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 11:27pm

One of the protagonists in a planned contest between teams of mixed martial artists and tai chi fighters, scheduled to be held in Shanghai on Monday but blocked by police, has accused his opponent of deliberately sabotaging the event, local media reported.

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Beijing-based MMA fighter and promoter Xu Xiaodong alleged in a social media post that his principal adversary, tai chi master Ma Baoguo, had asked his nephew to call the police before the contest started, news website Beijing Time reported.

In statements made via his Weibo microblogging account and shared by Beijing Time, Xu said he had been “eagerly awaiting the match”, but Ma’s actions to “entrap” him meant that June 26 – the proposed date for the contest – was now a “shameful day for martial arts”, the report said.

The fighter said he discovered the identity of the whistle-blower from the police, and dared Ma to “sue him” if the accusations were unfounded.

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Xu came to the public’s attention when footage of him defeating another tai chi master, Wei Lei, in just 10 seconds in April was widely shared online.

The contest between the teams led by Xu and Ma had been scheduled for 3pm Monday and was intended to lay to rest a long-running argument over the relative merits of the two fighting disciplines.

The bout ended before it began, however, when police raided the venue.

Video footage of the raid showed officers speaking to Xu, while the fighter, nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his aggressive style, warned them not to “push” him.

Xu explained later on social media that he had not been detained, but said he had remained with police in an office until about 8pm, by which time all venues that stage martial arts fights in the city had closed, the report said.

“I have left Shanghai! Your martial arts centres and organisations can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” he said.

Xu’s defeat of Wei in April sparked a huge debate around the country on the merits of traditional martial arts.

While supporters of tai chi defended the ancient discipline, and even challenged Xu to a rematch, the MMA fighter, who is known for his provocative comments, described traditional martial arts as a “farce”.

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The Chinese Martial Arts Association responded by saying that the contest between Xu and Wei was illegal, and had “violated the morals of martial arts”.

It was certainly a bad day for Wei, who was once described in a documentary by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV as “one of the greatest tai chi masters in China”.

Xu’s microblogging account was deactivated amid the swirling attention, and a new account that appeared to be his was also later blocked, Beijing Time reported.

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People across China were enthralled by the incident, and were largely supportive of Xu.

One person accused tai chi practitioners online of using “many different ways to cheat” and “continuing to lie to people” about their abilities.

“People representing Chinese martial arts are too afraid to fight, and are still boasting about defeating an MMA champion,” another wrote.

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“These ‘fake’ career martial artists cannot keep lying to people. Brother Xu is awesome, no one can push him around,” said a third.

According to the Beijing Time report, Xu said he is considering arranging a behind-closed-doors fight in the coming days for release on video.