It’s not hard to understand why the UFC threw a contract to Zhang Mingyang after he left his opponent unconscious against the cage at the end of the first round at Road to UFC.
Not only was the knockout spinning through social media, but the UFC hardly has any Asian fighters in the larger weight classes. The visual correlations between Zhang to Yao Ming, the legendary NBA player who opened the doors of China to the league, must be obvious to the UFC brass. A hulking Chinese pulverizer, if successful, could become a star of galactic proportions.
Shortly after his seminal victory at Road to UFC, Zhang sat down with The AllStar to recap his electric win.
“I still feel now that I’m living in a dream, my dream come true. It was so surreal, now I’m a UFC fighter…I also realize that it was just another start. The hard work just starts,” Zhang said still in a daze from the win.
When Zhang stated that he was living his dream, he wasn’t speaking as a metaphor. In the interview, he detailed how he literally dreamed of winning a UFC contract. The difference was that the fight lasted a full three rounds, and he felt far more emotional in the dream than in reality.
The confidence of the real-life experience was because “I think I was more calm than how I performed in the dream, but I firmly believe this is the moment belongs to me.”
Explaining how the fight unfolded compared to his expectations, Zhang was surprised at how aggressive his opponent, George Tokkos of England, began the fight. This chaotic start was the spark that initiated the trail to the finish.
“My plan for this fight was to calm myself down to start slow,” Zhang said. “Even when the fight start, I was very calm than before. But when my opponent rush to me trying to exchange punches with me, I didn’t expect that, but when I got hit couple times, I feel like, fuck ya, I like this feeling let’s do it, let’s exchange punches, I won’t go backward let’s go forward.”
Although Zhang found himself pulled into the emotions of the fight, he still performed the strategy forged in his preparation. “So in my fight camp for this fight, I practiced a lot with my jab, my left hand, my forehand, so jab, cross, body shot. I want to use my jab to finish this fight. But at that moment, you can see when I’m trying to knock out him, I was still throwing my left hand, but I think my body know what I was gonna do before my brain. My power hand just went there and finish him.”
That kind of instinctual KO power makes fights among the larger weight classes thrilling for fans, and that’s exactly the kind of forerunner that Zhang wants to embody. While there aren’t many Asian fighters currently fighting at light heavyweight and heavyweight, Zhang believes they’re out there and just need someone to show them their place.
“There are a lot of young prospects, very talented, big guys in China.,” Zhang said. “But the problem right now is…we lack the big guys in the UFC, so we don’t have the confidence to see we can have the big guys in UFC, we need a pioneer, you know. Just like Zhang Tiequan and Li Jingliang did for all the other UFC fighters, so I want be that guy…I want to show all over the world that we can have big guys in the UFC. And then I can motivate other young, big talent.”