While Thursday’s WEC event in Arizona marks the end of an era for the home of the best lighter weight fighters in the world, it’s a journey that’s far from over for lightweight prospect Tiequan Zhang, whose second WEC fight, against Danny Downes, will be seen by millions in his home country of China, a nation rapidly becoming a hotbed of mixed martial arts excitement and coverage.
Guangdong Television and Shanghai Greater Sports will televise the Zhang vs Downes bout in China, and the bout may also be viewed on QQ.com and Sohu.com, which, along with being the UFC’s online home in the country, is also the official web partner for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the official partner of the NBA, ESPN, Adidas and Sports Illustrated in China, with over two billion registered worldwide users. QQ.com has also brought Zhang to the masses with over 110 million page views over a 30 day period for articles and pictures related to his upcoming fight .
Zhang, 32, is taking such attention in stride, even though his pre-fight blogs on Sohu.com are reaching more people than any professional fighter has ever reached at one time. Unbeaten in 17 fights, including a stirring first round submission win over current UFC fighter Pablo Garza in his WEC debut in September, Zhang is the first fighter from mainland China to fight in the organization. And since he displayed his talents for fans around the world, the buzz at home in Beijing has gotten louder and louder, even prompting new visitors to the China Top Team gym.
“We don’t change a lot at CTT, but there has been an influx of training partners since my first debut at WEC 51,” he said. “Many old Sanda teammates, and MMA friends from the old days have come back to start training again. It has given me a lot more opportunities to work with different types of fighters.”
And while his status as a pioneer is established as he helps clear the way for more and more Chinese fighters and fans to embrace mixed martial arts, he is not looking towards his 2011 future in the UFC; his focus is strictly on talented prospect Danny Downes.
“He is young, but he is a solid fighter,” said Zhang. “He never hesitates to move forward and isn’t afraid to crash into another fighter. I like that style as I am in some ways the same. I think my experience in Chinese Sanda is definitely going to be beneficial for me as I will be bringing strikes and movements he will probably not be accustomed to, and hopefully that will give me an advantage. I am also comfortable on the ground and will use this mixture to win this fight.”
Zhang's Trailblazing in China Continues
"I will be bringing strikes and movements he will probably not be accustomed to, and hopefully that will give me an advantage. I am also comfortable on the ground and will use this mixture to win this fight.”