MMA fighting styles

Zhang ready to shoot the story

Zhang Peimian established himself in the strawweight kickboxing division of the ONE Championship, winning his opening two fights with the promotion. The 19-year-old will face Italian-Canadian Jonathan Di Bella on Friday night in Kuala Lumpur. [Photo/China Daily]

Chinese teenager wants to become youngest ONE Championship kickboxing world title holder

Inspired by his fellow world champions, Chinese kickboxing prodigy Zhang Peimian is pulling out all the stops to put his name in the record books as the teenager prepares for his own title fight.

Nicknamed the “Fighting Rooster” for his relentless and vigorous punching style, Zhang is eager to prove the hype is real when he takes on Italian-Canadian Jonathan Di Bella on Friday with the vacant ONE Championship world strawweight kickboxing title. stakes.

Having won his opening two fights since his ONE Championship debut in March, 19-year-old Zhang is ready to make history. If he beats Di Bella, who has a perfect 10-0 win-loss record, Zhang (16-1) will become the youngest kickboxing titleholder in the championship. Victory would also see him join compatriots Xiong Jingnan and Tang Kai to become the Singapore-based promotion’s third Chinese belt winner.

Despite the high stakes, Zhang is optimistic about his chances on Friday night at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.

“I prepared for this moment so hard and for so long. My training camp went pretty well, so I’m sure I’m going to snatch the belt for sure,” Zhang said in an online interview. .

Citing his punching power and ability to improvise as his best weapons, Zhang said he would not let this fight be decided by the judges.

“I know him well because I watched a lot of his fights,” he said of Di Bella. “His lead hook and low kick to the back is very good, but I trained for it and I can take it out.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it until I get in the ring, because I have to adapt to the situation. But I will knock him out within four rounds one way or another. “

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Di Bella is a seasoned activist with a great temper, and is the son of former two-time kickboxing world champion Angelo Di Bella.

Zhang starts the fight as a favorite but Di Bella, 26, is determined to impress in his ONE debut, which had been pushed back for nearly two years due to the pandemic.

“He’s very good, versatile. But I’m also dangerous,” said Di Bella, a former International Sports Karate Association world champion who began his amateur career at age 10 guided by his father.

“I can do multiple styles, it depends on the fight night but I’m going for a win no matter what. I can’t wait to be the king of this division,” he said.

Developed in the rigorous junior sanda (Chinese kickboxing) system of his native province of Guangxi, Zhang possesses exceptional power and stamina. However, with two pro boxing victories under his belt, Di Bella has precision and punching range on his side in what makes for a fascinating matchup.

Talent increase

Zhang’s rise to the top of his division builds on China’s recent success in the ONE Championship.

The country’s first MMA world champion, Xiong Jingnan, defended her world strawweight title for a record seventh time earlier this month after beating Angela Lee by unanimous decision to retain the 125-pound (57-kilogram) belt. ) on the soil of its rival in Singapore. .

Much to the delight of the Chinese MMA community, Tang Kai was crowned ONE World Featherweight Champion in August after dethroning veteran Thanh Le via unanimous decision. The triumph marked China’s first major world men’s MMA title. Tang was treated to a victory party hosted by the local government upon his return to his Hunan hometown of Shaoyang, where fans lined the streets to catch a glimpse of their martial arts hero and his glittering golden belt.

Now Zhang is eager to emulate Tang and make his own contribution as Chinese martial arts experience a renaissance on the world stage.

“I am proud of my compatriot Tang. The warm welcome he received after returning to his hometown was truly moving,” Zhang said.

“Hopefully I can make my own comeback home after Friday’s fight a glorious one too.”

With Tang and Zhang exemplifying the recent surge in Chinese fighting talent, ONE Championship believes China deserves a bigger place on the world stage.

“China is the birthplace of martial arts and it should play an important role in ONE given that we are an Asia-based promotion,” ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said earlier this year.

“I think Chinese athletes have the talent and potential to be world champions and they are very close. I am very confident that with the culture and history of martial arts in China, the future is very bright. “