Who Is Rising Chinese Star Zhao Zhi Kang?

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This coming Saturday, 24 March, Chinese featherweight Zhao Zhi Kang returns to action, and looks to follow-up on his magnificent promotional debut from three months ago.

The 23-year-old will meet Pakistan’s Waqar “Psycho” Umar on the main card of ONE: IRON WILL, which broadcasts live from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.

Zhao, a Chinese sanda champion, holds a marvelous professional record of 23-3. In his first appearance with ONE Championship last November, he handily submitted Cambodia’s Thai Rithy halfway through the first round, and seeks an encore performance this weekend.

Before the match takes place, learn a little bit more about Zhao Zhi Kang. Here is what you need to know about the rising Chinese superstar.

He Learned Self-Reliance At An Early Age

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Like many other martial artists who grew up in Asia, Zhao’s family comes from a farming background.

He was raised in Inner Mongolia, China, and his parents farmed crops on the mountainside of his rural town. They worked from early in the morning until late at night, and since they worked long hours, Zhao learned to be self-reliant.

“When you are born into a farming family, you will become more mature than kids the same age in most situations, because you need to help your parents do a lot of work,” he recollects. “Sometimes, my parents got home very late, so I learned to cook simple dishes for myself to snack on while I was waiting for them to come home from farming.”

Even though his mother and father worked long hours, they made sure to spend a lot of their spare time with their son.

“My parents are very warm, outgoing people,” Zhao says. “My father and I have the best relationship ever. We are like brothers.”

Jiu-Jitsu Changed His Life

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The Chinese featherweight was always athletic.

Zhao won a bronze medal in a javelin competition during junior high school, and claimed a slew of medals in athletics while he was in elementary school. And though he was bullied during that time, he was only motivated to practice martial arts after watching some films.

“When I was a kid, I liked to watch Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li action movies,” he says. “That was the trigger that got me interested in learning martial arts.” 

At the age of 15, after completing junior high school, Zhao’s parents enrolled him in a martial arts academy in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia.

Zhao started off with sanda, showed great promise in the discipline, and eventually captured a national sanda championship. But soon, he discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the academy, and that caused a shift in vocation.

“I love how gentle strength can overcome a strong attack,” he says. “This really affected me a lot in my future career path, as I made the switch from sanda to the cage.”

Besides winning a few medals and stumbling upon a new career path, the martial arts have given Zhao more than he could have ever imagined.

“The most important thing I have learned is you should never give up, and martial arts can give you the inner peace, and tough armor at the same time. It gives you a good balance.”

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