On Saturday, 22 September, the Chinese grappler is scheduled to meet Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian (9-1) at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia.
The 22-year-old is gunning to become the first man to defeat Rahardian in his homeland, and will do everything in his power to succeed in his mission.
Before he enters foreign territory to try and spoil the hometown hero’s party, learn a little bit more about Peng, and how the end of his childhood dream led to a career in the cage.
From Movies To The Mats
Peng was raised in Zhongshan, a city of three million people in Southern China, with his parents and two sisters. His mother and father ran a small business, and life was good for the youngster.
However, he admits he was a “naughty and playful kid” who had a lot of energy, but it was not necessarily directed towards his school work. Instead, he found himself drawn towards sports, video games, and martial arts movies.
“My friends and I watched martial arts movies from an early age, so we liked to try out all the moves,” he adds.
Ultimately, that led him to start an actual martial arts journey of his own. Luckily for Peng, his father was a lifelong martial artist, and their city had a strong tradition of various styles of combat.
“From the age of two or three, my father taught me lion dance, martial arts, and traditional boxing techniques in the village,” he recalls.
“I saw everyone else practicing, and then I thought martial arts was cool, so I practiced, too.”
The traditional styles from his local area intrigued Peng, and he even tried his hand at Wing Chun. However, it was another sport that really captured the youngster’s attention, and helped him to become the man he is today.
While attending a sports school, one of the academy’s coaches suggested the youngster try his hand at wrestling. With Peng’s energetic character and competitive nature, the coach felt he was a natural fit.
“Wrestling is a very real sport,” Peng says. “It rewards you for your efforts, and you need wisdom, courage, and strong physical attributes.”
One Dream Ends, While Another Is Born
Peng immediately took to wrestling and quickly became a National Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion – posting a 56-4 record in competition.
The Chinese athlete thought his future belonged at the sport’s elite level, but his 55-kilogram division in the Greco-Roman category was left out of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, despite being present at the London Games four years earlier.
It was a catastrophic end to his childhood dream.
“The Olympic Games canceled my division at 55 kilograms,” he explains. “With my height and weight, to participate in 60 kilograms would mean suffering losses. I was forced to give up wrestling.”
Deflated, he graduated from school, and then went back to his hometown with no goals and no immediate plans.
Peng did not stay inactive for too long, though. While at his parents’ house in Zhongshan, he checked out a mixed martial arts show on television, and noticed some similarities between those warriors’ skills and his own.
“After returning home, I saw some Chinese wrestlers turning to the sport of mixed martial arts,” he explains. “I watched some events, and began to understand that wrestling was a great advantage to have in the cage, so I was inspired to start my training.”
Peng threw himself into another sporting career, but not everyone around him approved of his latest endeavor.
His family did not support him at first, given the relative prominence and prestige of wrestling at that time compared to the burgeoning mixed martial arts scene.
“My family saw that it was totally different from the martial arts they had known before, and the wrestling they had watched on TV during the Olympics,” he explains. “They are real fights, so my mother always strongly opposed it.”
Fortunately, those feelings did not last for long. As Peng showed dedication to his new craft and began to have success on huge platforms like ONE Championship, they slowly came around.
“They recognized that all my dedication and hard work has paid off,” he continues. “They are letting me chase my dreams, and want them to come true.”
Proving Himself In The Cage
With his family on board, the Chinese athlete can continue with his progression. He was successful in wrestling, and the work ethic he developed in that discipline provided the foundation for his transition from the mats to the cage.
Following a brief stint on the regional circuit, he joined the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Peng made his promotional debut at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD last November, and scored a TKO of his Cambodian rival Phat Soda just a few minutes into the first round.
“When I knocked out my opponent, I told the world that there is an athlete named Peng Xue Wen in China,” he states. “At that moment, I felt that my hard training was worth it.”
This time, it was the boxing skills of the wrestling specialist that earned him victory, and it showed that his daily grind to become a more complete martial artist is paying off.
Peng will continue to develop his talent, and looks to showcase his improvement against Rahardian at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES with hopes that his journey will lead him all the way to the top.
“My goal,” he says, “is to become the king of ONE Championship.”