Ahead Of Folayang Clash, Zhang Eyes Dream Fights With Lee And Aoki

Aug 10, 2021

“The Warrior” Zhang Lipeng did not sign with ONE Championship to be just another face in the crowd.

The Chinese star hopes to prove that with a win over former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang in the main event of ONE: BATTLEGROUND II this Friday, 13 August.

“I want to challenge myself. The most important thing is that the athletes in ONE Championship are the best,” Zhang says.

“Although the competition between the top five fighters in ONE Championship is fierce, I still feel that with my skills and my experience, I belong in the top tier.

With a 30-11-2 mixed martial arts record – and with 21 wins in his last 24 fights – there’s a reason “The Warrior” is aiming high.

And if he can get past the legendary Filipino at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, he’ll take the first step toward his lofty ambitions on the global stage.

“I set myself a goal that in one-and-a-half to two years’ time, I’ll win the ONE Lightweight World Championship,” Zhang adds.

Before the 31-year-old makes his highly anticipated promotional debut, he shares his thoughts on the superstar athletes he would love to face in the weight class.

ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian ‘The Warrior’ Lee

MMA fighter Christian Lee with the ONE Championship belt

From one “Warrior” to another, Zhang believes the reigning lightweight king would present the toughest test on the roster.

Christian Lee is the most impressive athlete to me,” the Chinese fighter says.

“In the beginning, I didn’t think he was that strong, but I changed my mind after watching his bout with [Saygid Guseyn] Arslanaliev. He controlled the entire match and did such a great job with his stand-up, ground strikes, and wrestling. That was the match where he really impressed me.”

It is also the Singaporean-American’s constant evolution that has kept him a step ahead of his rivals, and Zhang believes Lee looks better with every outing — though he does think he could compete with the titleholder inside the Circle.

I can see that he has been improving step by step,” the debutant offers. 

“I watched his last fight against Timofey Nastyukhin, where he won by TKO in just two minutes. That was a great match, and nobody expected it to be over so quickly. We all know that Timofey is a very tough guy.

“If I could challenge for the World Championship tomorrow, I think I would compete well because I am ready. I have been studying Christian for a long time, and I have prepared myself well, both technically and mentally.”

#2-Ranked Contender Shinya ‘Tobikan Judan’ Aoki

Pictures from the fight between Eduard Folayang and Shinya Aoki from "ONE on TNT IV"

The other big attraction for Zhang is a potential battle with one of his mixed martial arts heroes in Japanese legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki.

“One of the reasons that I joined ONE is that one of my favorite athletes is here and in my weight class,” he reveals.

“I hope to have a match against Shinya one day. This is another goal that I would like to achieve, besides fighting for the World Championship.”

The Chinese athlete is a submission specialist with a potent ground game that’s led him to 14 tapout victories, so a chance to face one of the all-time grappling greats would be a huge honor for him.

“I have been watching Shinya’s matches in other MMA events since the early days; he is a very experienced athlete,” Zhang says.

“I like ground techniques and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he is really good at both. Eighty percent of his finishes have come by submission.”

No Easy Matchups

Lee and Aoki are the two biggest targets for the GP Mixed Martial Arts representative, but that doesn’t mean he is looking past any of the other competitors in the upper echelon of the division.

“All of the athletes ranked in the top five are great fighters, and everyone has their own unique style,” Zhang says.

“Arslanaliev is really good at wrestling — I knew him when we were training together in Thailand. Timofey is a tough fighter, and Ok Rae Yoon is very good at stand-up.

“I know it’s going to be tough, but I am confident that I can be one of the top five.”

Despite his big plans, “The Warrior” knows he must first overcome a difficult task at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II. And the surging Foshan native is determined to quickly capture the attention of every rival in the division.

“If I beat the former World Champion Folayang in my debut at ONE Championship, it will be my declaration to all the other lightweights that Chinese fighter Zhang Lipeng is coming,” he states.

Read more: ‘Never Give Up’: Folayang Out To Prove He’s Not Done Against Zhang

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