After blasting his way through the regional circuit in China, “The Warrior” Zhang Lipeng is ready to put the ONE Championship lightweight roster on notice.
“This debut fight is critical for me because we Chinese like to get off to a flying start,” Zhang says.
“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.”
“The Warrior” is in the perfect place to launch his attack on the ONE ranks. He sports a professional record of 30-11-2 and has lost just twice in his last 24 fights.
Along the way, the GP Mixed Martial Arts representative has emerged as one of the leading talents from his home nation.
“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,” Zhang says.
“Also, I think now is my prime time – not only in my physical and mental state, but in my technique. I am 31 years old now. I think 31 is a golden age in the field of mixed martial arts because this is a man’s strongest time. Your technique, experience, and body are the most mature.
“That’s why I chose to join ONE Championship now. I think it’s very challenging for me, but also a good opportunity. ONE Championship offers a huge international stage, and I want to constantly challenge myself.”
Zhang’s first test in The Home Of Martial Arts will come against an icon of the promotion.
Folayang competed in ONE’s first-ever event, enjoyed two reigns as the lightweight titleholder, and has been a stalwart in the division for almost a decade. Moreover, the 37-year-old wushu specialist has consistently gone up against elite opponents while becoming a hero for Filipino fans.
The Chinese standout knows all of that – and he knows their matchup at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II will be anything but easy.
“I think Folayang is a fighter with excellent stand-up techniques. Because he used to practice wushu sanda, every punch and every kick he throws is hefty. To fight him, I have to be ready at all times,” Zhang says.
“Folayang’s stand-up skills are very good. I saw he knocked out many people when I watched his [competitions]. But [he also has] ground skills. After someone took him down, he could get up very fast. He also did an outstanding job on some of the ground control movements.”
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But while Zhang believes his foe is well-rounded, he also thinks the weakest link in the chain is the Filipino’s grappling.
It’s an element the Chinese athlete has emphasized while preparing to face the Team Lakay star.
“I think Folayang’s weakness is his ground skill, such as his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is not so outstanding compared with his other skills,” Zhang offers.
“Ground skill is one of my strengths, so it may be the crucial point of this match. In his past five [losses], he was submitted by his opponents in three of them. But in four of my last five wins, I submitted my opponents.
“Therefore, I would say this may be a key point of this match. I might try to take him down to win it.”
However he gets there, Zhang’s main focus is attaining the victory and making his name known in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
The Foshan native thinks he could step up and face off against the division’s elite right now, but he accepts that he must progress through the ranks in order to earn his shot.
With elite-level skills and momentum on his side, “The Warrior” wants to pick up where he left off in China and begin his charge toward the ONE Lightweight World Championship with a convincing performance over a promotional icon.
“I think I’m going to have a great match against Folayang. He always fights aggressively with heavy punches and heavy kicks. My style is pretty [aggressive] as well, so it will be an exciting fight and we will give our best to the fans of ONE Championship,” Zhang says.
“I want to prove myself in ONE through my debut fight, and prove my skills and strength. This is the start of my challenge for the ONE Lightweight World Title belt.”