‘Terminator’ is back at UFC Fight Night 132 in Singapore as Song Yadong and Song Kenan plot Chinese dynasty
One spent years living like a monk and the other quit as an engineer on the China high-speed rail, but the two Songs are looking to continue their superb UFC starts this weekend
The lives of Song “Terminator” Yadong and Song “The Assassin” Kenan have taken wildly different paths so far but the rising Chinese stars have reached the same destination – the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
“It was always my dream to be a UFC fighter and fight against the best in the world,” Song Yadong told the South China Morning Post. “Now I feel like I belong here.”
On their debuts for the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion last November in Shanghai, the fighters set tongues wagging with first-round results.
Featherweight Song pushed his record to 11-2, with two no contests, in forcing Indian fighter Bharat Khandare to tap out via guillotine choke with 4.16 gone on the clock; welterweight Song Kenan (12-3) was even more impressive, knocking American Bobby Nash (8-4) out in just 15 seconds.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) June 19, 2018
They were huge statements of intent on the biggest stage, and Song Kenan said there was more to come as the pair return to the Octagon on as part of the UFC Fight Night 132 card on Saturday.
Song Yadong faces Brazilian Filipe Arantes (18-9-1, two no contests) and Song Kenan fights Mexico’s Hector Aldana (4-0).
“Shanghai was a perfect start – I almost couldn’t believe it happened,” said Song Kenan. “Now we have another huge opportunity.”
A look at the origin stories here give an insight into how far the Las Vegas-based UFC is reaching into Chinese society – and to the lengths fighters will go to as they chase their MMA dreams.
The Tianjin-born Song Yadong was obsessed with martial arts as a child and was packed off by his family to the schools that surround the historic Shaolin Temple in Henan.
For three years he lived like a monk in the communities that thrive on the outside the temple walls and he learned his craft – and some valuable lessons about life he carries with him today.
“I feel I learned more wisdom,” said the 20-year-old. “Life there was very hard. The schools there make you live like the monks do, you even dress like them and keep the same routine.
“The coaches all learned from the monks. It was lonely and sad. I had not time to rest. But it gave me a strong mind and now if anything is hard, I don’t care, I have been through hardship before.”
Song Yadong had left the monk life behind to become a professional MMA fighter at the age of just 15, dancing between domestic and regional promotions before the UFC came calling last year.
“After my win last year there was huge interest on the internet, and in the media,” Song Yadong said. “They said I was very good but I don’t think so. I need to live the fighter’s life and focus on my next fight and on improving.”
The Hebei-raised Song Kenan was meanwhile keeping his combat sports career secret from his parents as he trained to be an engineer and eventually set to work on China’s burgeoning high-speed rail system.
“My background is a little different from most Chinese fighters – I only became an MMA fighter at 23,” said the now 28-year-old. “I used to work full-time and only train in MMA at night. But becoming a fighter was my dream. I started fighting without my family really knowing – I had moved to Beijing.
“But once I started winning I felt I could tell them and show them I could be a professional fighter. Now, I work hard and I will not stop.
“Young men always have a period where they don’t want to listen to their parents. For me it just come late. But in my heart this is what I want to do.”
— UFC (@ufc) June 21, 2018
Saturday’s card presents a lesson in how the UFC’s matchmakers test the waters with new talent, both Chinese fighters being thrown in against fighters from markets from the other side of the planet.
“The important thing is that we fight against the best in the world,” said Song Kenan.
While Song Kenan’s effort in Shanghai was the more explosive, Song Yadong has captured global attention simply because of his tender age. He won a payday bonus for his effort last time and spent it on training with UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber and the team Alpha Male crew in Sacramento. Faber, for one, likes what he saw in Song Yadong.
“When he first came in we were looking at him and trying to work out what he was best at,” said Faber. “But we quickly saw he’s great at everything – and he wants to learn. We kept having to tell him to stop training, have a break. But that’s all he wanted to do. The kid’s got a big future.”
Song Yadong is certainly adapting quickly to the limelight, with “Terminator” style sunglasses in place for every public appearance this week. Come Saturday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, though, and the world will see just how far both these fighters have really come.