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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

UFC in China: plans revealed to open state-of-the-art performance complex in Shanghai

  • New facility slated to open in Shanghai in mid-2019
  • Complex will become the organisation’s centre of operations for the Asia-Pacific region
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2018, 9:27am

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is preparing to unleash future generations of Chinese fighters on the world of mixed martial arts with the announcement of a sprawling new performance institute in Shanghai designed to develop burgeoning local talent while furthering the rapid growth of the sport across the wider Asia-Pacific region.

“This is going to be the catalyst in terms of digging in and really developing these athletes the right way,” Kevin Chang, UFC vice-president of Asia-Pacific, told the Post.

“It will also give a lot more athletes from around the region a clear path to be recognised, and to get into the UFC. It’s not something that has existed in the past so it is a huge opportunity.”

Measuring in at around three-times the size of the UFC’s famed Performance Institute in Las Vegas, the new Shanghai centre – to be situated in the city’s central Jing’an District – will include the very latest in high-tech strength and conditioning facilities, as well as centres for sports science and nutrition, and is slated for opening in mid-2019. The complex will also become the UFC’s centre of operations for the Asia-Pacific region.

Training programmes at the institute will be guided by UFC Hall of Famer and the UFC’s vice-president of athlete development Forrest Griffin, the popular former light-heavyweight champion who retired in 2013 with a lifetime record of 19-7.

The news comes as the UFC kicks off pre-bout activities before Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 141: Blaydes vs Ngannou II card at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing – the first time the Las Vegas-based promotion has staged an event in the Chinese capital.

The 12-fight Beijing card will be headlined by the heavyweight title contender showdown between Cameroonian-Frenchman Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (11-3) and American Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (10-1, one no contest) but will also showcase nine Chinese fighters.

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Leading the local charge will be the welterweight veteran and fan favourite Li “The Leech” Jingliang (15-5), as well as rising stars in the 20-year-old bantamweight Song “The Terminator” Yadong (12-3, two no contests), and explosive strawweight Zhang Weili (17-1), who’s carrying a 17-fight win streak into the big night.

“The first event in Beijing is monumental for us and we are very excited about how far the talent from China has improved,” Chang said. “A lot of the fighters are from Beijing, including Li Jingliang. The support he is going to get is going to be special. We’re excited about the event, about showcasing just how far these fighters have come, and we’re excited about the opportunities coming up after the event in Beijing.”

The UFC held a first and successful card in mainland China in Shanghai last November and has been adding to its stable of Chinese fighters over the 12 months since, while testing talent such as Zhang and bantamweight Liu Pingyuan (12-5) on fight cards as far afield as Los Angeles and Hamburg.

The UFC believes the new performance institute in Shanghai will help bridge the gap between those Chinese fighting with regional promotions and the international fighters who have a wealth of experience when it comes to stepping out on the sport’s largest stages.

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Along with training facilities, the Shanghai institute will include “built-in advanced production capabilities with spectator seating that will allow UFC to produce and distribute live events and other original programming.”

“This facility will not only give us the ability to train the next generation of Chinese MMA stars, but it will be a major attraction to fans in the region and allow them to interact with our brand in an authentic way,” UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein said in a statement.

Attention meanwhile turns to Beijing this weekend where both Li and Song are hoping to climb the rankings in their respective divisions – against Germany’s David “Sagat” Zawada (16-4) and American Vince “Vandetta” Morales (8-2) respectively.

There’s also huge interest surrounding Zhang and just how far she can ride the sort of power that saw her carve her way through the domestic leagues. The 29-year-old took a grinding decision victory over America’s Danielle “Dynamite” Taylor (9-4) on debut for the UFC in August – only the second time in her career that the fight went the distance – and returns to the fray against the experienced American Jessica “Jag” Aguilar (20-6) on Saturday night.

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