China’s Li Kai Wen has hit the reset button.
The 22-year-old may have ended 2017 with an unfortunate disqualification loss to Pakistan’s Ahmed Mujtaba, but the humbled featherweight has returned to form.
On Friday, 23 February, at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, Li ripped through The Philippines’ Roel Rosauro. The Chinese featherweight tapped the Filipino out in 43 seconds, and earned the third-fastest submission victory in ONE featherweight history.
For Li, this marks “a new start” in his career, which he elaborates on, and much more.
ONE Championship: What was it like to make a winning return to the cage at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD?
Li Kai Wen: First of all, you all know I had a bad match the last time, so I concentrated and focused on this bout. It happened to be during the Chinese New Year, so I had to reschedule my plans to go back to my hometown, and instead stay with my team [in Tianjin] and train with them.
It is not that easy, so my team helped me a lot to adjust my mood and my emotions. I am very glad the weight control and training went well. It was not easy, but I am glad the result turned out to be good.
ONE: What was your strategy going into the bout?
LKW: Because my style is very aggressive and active, I like to control the pace. Of course, if the pace was controlled by my competitor, I would try to mess with his rhythm and recover it. My strategy is finding opportunities while attacking. As long as I catch the chance, my fist will land directly and repeatedly. To me, it’s all about speed, accuracy, and relentlessness.
ONE: How important was this win for you?
LKW: This win was very important to me. This is the new start for me to attain the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
I know I will get it eventually, because I work very hard, and winning will just come naturally as a result. I will take every chance I get, and gain more and more experience. If you want to be a world champion, then you need to learn how to think like a world champion. You need to learn to have great heart.
Failure cannot get me down, and affect the way I train or live. It only helps me grow faster. I need to be grateful for every unexpected accident, as they have made me who I am today. They have made me stronger.
ONE: What did you think about your performance?
LKW: I can do better, but I was so eager to win in that moment, my skills and pace were a little bit rough. But on the other hand, my BJJ skills got a lot better. I can guarantee they will get better in the future, because I have confidence now, and I focus on training all the time — not only on my skills, but also my personality and attitude.
Before, I might have left the impression of a young man with too much ego, and who does not care too much. But now, I’m starting to put more respect and humility into my competitive side. I have huge potential I am waiting to share with the fans.
ONE: The featherweight division is stacked with talent, like Marat Gafurov, Christian Lee, and Kotetsu Boku. Who would you like to face next?
LKW: I guess I cannot really say who I would be more willing to face the next time. No matter whom I face, I will not be threatened. I hope one day I will become as great as those whom you have mentioned.
The athlete I would like to face the most, no doubt, is the ONE Featherweight World Champion, Martin Nguyen. I know I would beat him in a rematch, and become the new champion.
ONE: When would you like to compete next?
LKW: I want to compete in May at the Shanghai event (ONE: BATTLE FOR THE HEAVENS). If you manage to see me in Shanghai, you would be the lucky ones, because I will show you what the word “magnificent” means in real life.
ONE: Your training partner Ma Jia Wen meets your former rival Ahmed Mujtaba this Friday at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. Did you give Ma any advice?
LKW: Actually, I did not really give him any advice, because I really trust him. I know he can KO Mujtaba very easily with his ability and strength. Even though Mujtaba is a good athlete, I believe Ma is still better than him. I just lost one victory to Mujtaba. If my brother can finish what I started, I would be very happy.
Kuala Lumpur | 9 March | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onevisions18