‘Dreams Come True Through Action, Not Imagination’ – Tang Kai Says Hard Work Led To World Title Shot
Tang Kai is on the cusp of greatness, and he’s spent his whole life preparing for this moment.
On August 26, the Chinese knockout artist will challenge Thanh Le for the ONE Featherweight World Title in the co-main event of ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II, which means the golden belt could be just one more strike away.
Before the biggest fight of his career, find out how Tang went from a youngster with big dreams to an MMA World Title showdown in Singapore.
Serious From The Start
Like many children who get into martial arts, Tang had an abundance of energy with no positive outlet until he found combat sports.
“When I was young, I was naughty,” he admits. “But I liked wushu and martial arts. That’s why I become an athlete.”
But while the 26-year-old is now known as a concussive striker – with 12 KOs in 14 professional victories – it was a grappling art that first got him hooked.
Back then, he saw wrestlers as big and powerful – traits he wanted to embody on an international stage.
The featherweight told ONE Championship:
“I started out as a wrestler. Wrestling is a sport that represents the strong. Whether in practice or in competition, they need strong power all the time.
“My goals were to take every training and competition seriously. Of course, to participate in the Olympics is a dream for every athlete. That is what the coach always told us.”
‘Hard Work Is A Talent’
Tang’s Olympic dream never came to fruition, but that’s because he found a sport that resonated with him even more.
The Chinese athlete enjoyed watching MMA due to its all-around nature, and armed with his skilled wrestling background, he decided to make the switch.
“I’ve always followed all kinds of fights. Punching is what I like more than wrestling, and being able to stop an opponent by KO made me more excited,” he explains.
“I think mixed martial arts is more in line with my personality, simple and direct, without so many restrictions and constraints of rules.”
It wasn’t a seamless switch and things were difficult at the start. However, Tang never gave up and eventually began to achieve big things.
He’s now set to challenge for the biggest prize in the sport, but he doesn’t believe it’s because of any special physical traits.
Instead, he thinks that his tireless work ethic and his ability to keep pushing through tough situations are what truly set him apart from other competitors.
“Training was really hard and injuries were inevitable, especially at the beginning of the career when I did not know how to protect myself. But because I loved it very much, after a long time I start enjoying it, no matter how difficult it was to persevere.
“I think everybody can achieve something with talent, and hard work is a talent. The most important thing is how much you put into it.”
The Right Support
It would have been an even more difficult process if Tang did not have the backing of those around him.
Fortunately, there are many people who’ve always been there for him throughout his roller-coaster MMA journey.
“My family and friends all supported me because they know that this is what I love. My mother is afraid that I will get hurt, so she doesn’t watch my matches, but she has never stopped me from pursuing my dream,” the Sunkin International Fight Club representative said.
“My parents and my coach give me the right guidance. I can always feel their expectations and love for me. I will fight for them.”
That support wasn’t always vocalized, but Tang knew he could follow their lead in order to work toward his goals.
And ultimately, what his parents and coaches showed him was more important than anything they could say out loud.
“Chinese people are inarticulate. They told me what to do and what not to do through their actions.
“Dreams come true through action, not imagination.”
A Chance To Enter The Record Books On The Global Stage
After an impressive run in his homeland, Tang joined ONE Championship and promptly won six straight fights.
With that, he’s within touching distance of a historic feat – becoming the first male athlete to ever win an MMA World Title.
The rising star knows it would be a massive achievement for himself and his support system – but also for his nation. And that is giving him even more incentive to dethrone Thanh Le on August 26.
“Firstly, it means that what I’ve done is worth it, and besides, I could provide better living conditions for my family.
“Most important is that I hope to make history and show the power of Chinese fighters to the world.”