3 Martial Arts Masters Who Influenced Future World Champions

Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Renzo Gracie

If you’ve been following the action at ONE Championship, you know the promotion loves its wide variety of martial arts.

Whether it’s Muay Thai, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, karate, wushu, or something else, you’ll find athletes who showcase your favorite martial arts in the Circle. But the disciplines themselves supersede even the most dominant ONE World Champions.

Here are three martial arts masters who left their mark on today’s generation of fighters.

Grandmaster Helio Gracie

No practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has made an impact on the discipline quite like 10th-degree red belt Grandmaster Helio Gracie.

The late Brazilian started training in martial arts when he was 16 years old, testing out disciplines like judo and catch wrestling before helping to develop what came to be known today as BJJ.

During his competitive days, Gracie only participated in a little over 20 matches, but his teachings went on to shape the martial arts world, particularly through the help of his sons. These days, his version of BJJ extends beyond the walls of the Gracie family.

For example, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes’ main discipline is BJJ. Over the years, the Brazilian superstar has won five World Titles in the sport.

Even athletes like Yodkaikaew “Y2K” Fairtex, who comes from a predominantly striking background, have benefited from learning Gracie’s ground game during their transition to mixed martial arts.

Ajarn Yodtong Senanan

Ajarn Yodtong Senanan trained some of the most legendary Muay Thai World Champions in Thailand throughout his famed career, but his most notable titleholders came during the Golden Era of Muay Thai in the 1990s.

The late Muay Thai master began training in the discipline when he was 14 years old, but like most athletes in the country during his time, he retired from competition by the age of 21.

A deep devotee of the sport, Senanan began teaching other fighters until he opened Sityodtong Gym in Chonburi in 1959, where he produced legends like brothers Samart and Kongtoranee Payakaroon.

Even Western striking icons like Ramon Dekkers – former mentor to Nieky “The Natural” Holzken – and Ernesto Hoost – who trained Santino Verbeek – sought out Senanan to improve their Muay Thai skill sets. Moreover, ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong got his start in martial arts under the legendary Thai master.

Because he had students all over the world, every practitioner of Muay Thai may have ties to Senanan – whether they realize it or not.

Wangzi Yuan Wen Qing

Yuan Wen Qing is known as “The Prince Of Wushu,” and for good reason.

The Chinese legend got his start in the martial art at 9 years old and is still active in wushu to this day, where he’s coaching the next generation of stylistic strikers on China’s National Wushu Team.

Throughout his competitive years, Yuan won gold at the Asia Games twice – first in 1990 in Beijing and then in 1994 in Hiroshima. He also scored gold at the World Wushu Championships in Kuala Lumpur in 1993 and in Rome in 1997.

Today, his teachings have spread far and wide and can be felt most dominantly in the Philippines, where Team Lakay standouts Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, and former bantamweight king Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon all incorporate their wushu striking into mixed martial arts.

Read more: 5 Ways To Safely Practice Martial Arts Outdoors

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