Asia is historically regarded as the home of martial arts. But the region hasn’t been able to translate its mastery of traditional martial arts into the world of modern combat. The UFC has been home to some of the best Asian fighters in the world. But only a few have truly gone on to fight on an elite level, most notably strawweight champion Zhang Weili and ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung. However, the new generation of Asian martial artists have truly embraced modern-day mixed martial arts and is looking to rule the world. In this article, we will take a look at 6 Asian fighters the UFC should sign.
Christian Lee is ONE Championship royalty. The promotion’s CEO Chatri Sityodtong regards him as the ‘greatest lightweight on the planet’. The 22-year-old himself believes that he’s the best lightweight in the world, with the skills to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Of course, Chatri’s speaking from a promoter’s point-of-view, and Lee’s simply oozing with confidence. But the fact of the matter is that he’s far from being the best in the world just yet. The Hawaiian has massive potential, nonetheless. He’s an excellent grappler, with the perfect striking game to back his strong point.
He’s a wrecking ball in ONE Championship, who doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong. But if he truly wants to prove that he’s the best in the world, he’ll have to make a move over to the UFC and beat the elite. Only then can he can lay claim to that title.
ONE definitely wouldn’t want to lose him, given the star power he has in Asia. Not many fighters have the audacity to say no to the UFC, however. He’s certainly among the most popular Asian fighters the UFC should sign.
Christian Lee loves HIGH-IMPACT slams! 🤼♂️ Will "The Warrior" be able to ground challenger Timofey Nastyukhin? @ChristianLeeMMA @tntdrama @BR_MMA @brlive #WeAreONE #ONEChampionship #ONEonTNT2 pic.twitter.com/ueW0lKfXC3
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) April 14, 2021
Undefeated Japanese sensation Itsuki Hirata has it all, the looks, the charisma, the personality, and the skills to be the best female fighter from Japan. The Judoka trains under grappling ace Shinya Aoki, and is an extremely aggressive grappler.
Moreover, the 21-year old is very calm and composed and shows no mercy to her opponents inside the cage. She’s slowly climbing up the ranks at ONE Championship but has expressed her desire to compete in the UFC one day.
If Hirata continues to wreck her opponents, Dana White wouldn’t mind having another dominant Judoka in the UFC. Among the female Asian fighters the UFC should sign, Hirata ranks number one.
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) February 11, 2020
Kyogi Horiguchi has been part of the UFC roster before. He competed in the UFC eight times, with a record of 7-1. His only loss in the UFC came to Demetrious Johnson in 2015. Other than that, he looked better each time he entered the Octagon.
Horiguchi trains out of the American Top Team and is a master of Karate, Kickboxing, and Shootfighting. He’s currently the Rizin FF bantamweight champion and proudly boasts an incredible 28-3 MMA record. Although Horiguchi was the one who decided not to renew his contract with the UFC, leading to his depature, he’d still be a great re-addition to the UFC roster.
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) December 31, 2020
Central Asia has been making a lot of noise in MMA, with additions like Makhmud Muradov and Shavkat Rakhmonov to the UFC roster.
Add Azak Maksum to the list of the most promising talents from the region too. The 25-year-old is an undefeated 12-0 professional fighter from Kazakhstan, with his most recent victory coming against Michael Aljarouj at Brave CF 48. The 125-pound fighter is fast on his feet and very efficient on the ground. A couple more solid performances and he’ll be on the UFC’s radar.
⛓ TRAIN WITH AZAT ⛓
Newly-signed prospect Azat Maksum training with great energy at home.
— MTK_MMA (@MTK_MMA) May 2, 2020
Koji Takeda is the top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in Japan.
Takeda holds a 12-1 professional MMA record, with five finishes. He’s not a finisher like the others mentioned in this article, as most of his wins have come via decision. But he’s a very smart fighter and knows what he needs to do to get his hand raised.
The wrestling ace from Japan is one of the best talents to come out of the country and is now eyeing a title fight with Rizin FF champion Tofiq Musaev. He’s one to keep an eye on for the UFC.
Meng Bo is the only person to beat Zhang Weili, and she believes she can do it again if she gets the chance. The two fought years ago, in what was Zhang’s first professional fight. The UFC strawweight queen has come a long way since then, but Meng Bo has also been making her presence felt in Asia.
ONE Championship is currently home to the 16-5 pro fighter. She’s calm, composed, and extremely efficient on the feet. However, Meng Bo isn’t a slouch on the ground either.
Taking into account the fact that the UFC has been investing heavily in Chinese fighters as of late, Meng Bo would be a great addition to the roster. And if Zhang Weili successfully defends her title against Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 this month, Meng Bo will remain the only woman to beat her compatriot.
Here’s our list of the Asian fighters the UFC should sign. Do you have any other names in mind?
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