Who’s the Next Great Asian MMA Fighter?

What is happening with the next generation of Asian MMA fighters? Is there hope for the next great Asian Fighter? Read below to find out more.

Growing up, my eyes feasted on martial arts experts Sho Kosugi, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li as they sliced and diced their enemies in quick and devastating fashion on the big screen. As an Asian kid growing up in the suburbs, these legendary actors were my heroes, whose style I tried to emulate as I threw illegal ninja stars against wooden planks in my basement, away from the prying eyes of my strict parents.


Sho Kosugi

At school, I endured a daily barrage of Asian epithets such as “chink”, “slant eye” and “chopstick,” which was never my idea of fun. And when the basketball coach asked if I had “soy sauce” on my hands when I turned the ball over to the other team, I looked up to the sky wondering when God was going to hand me special kickass powers to defend myself. He answered them in the form of VHS tapes of the Pride Fighting Championships, which became an addiction, or possibly even my new religion. I watched in fascination as real Asian men fought with the pride, grit and skills we had rarely seen with our own set of eyes.


Pride Fighting Championships

Our hero then was the phenomenal Japanese mixed martial arts wrestler, Kazushi “Gracie Killer” Sakuraba, who informed the world that not only could Asians kick ass in the movies, but they could also do it in real life. Warranted or not, a reputation that we were tough was finally bestowed upon us in high school. “Don’t mess with the Asian kid; he probably knows Kung Fu, Karate or Jiu-Jitsu!”


Kazushi Sakuraba taking on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Legend Royce Gracie.

As our reputation wore out in the following decade, we woke up from our dream era to discover that we were running out of fighters to cheer on. First, we attached ourselves to the great Hawaiian warrior, BJ Penn (half Korean), who took the mantle of best fighter of Asian descent in the early part of the new millennium. He won two UFC championships in two different weight classes, and we were damn proud to call him one of our own. That’s until he faced the greatest competitor at the time, Georges St. Pierre, who not only took his belt, but who destroyed his spirit as well. Similar could be said about the “Machida Era,” which ran as long as this sentence. Drug companies and doctors probably enjoyed an unprecedented increase in profits as Asian MMA fans rushed to them for the latest anti-depressants in order to dull their emotional heartache.



It pains me to generalize our brotherhood, but the stats and facts are soul crushing for current fans of Asian ethnic fighters. Take a look at the UFC / MMA rankings and you’ll only find a smattering trace of us amongst the elite pack. (We selected the UFC rankings because it represents the best MMA fighters in the world.)

Robbie Lawler (half Filipino), Lyoto Machida (half Japanese), Dong Hyun Kim, Chan Sung Jung (currently in the Korean military), Benson Henderson (half Korean), Takeya Mizugaki and Kyogi Horiguchi are not just high level competitors, but the only ranked fighters on that UFC ranking list. That’s only 7 out of a roster of 611 contracted male fighters in the top MMA promotion on the planet. It’s sobering to realize that less than 1% of the top fighters in the world are Asian, yet we make up for 60% of the world’s population! And there’s no disputing these ugly facts. I’ll admit that I even had to Google Kyogi’s name because I’d never heard of him, nor seen him fight, but his record seems pretty stout for an up and comer, giving us a glimpse of hope into the future.


Kyoji Horiguchi performing a roundhouse to the head of Louis Gaudinot

Unfortunately, we don’t have an Asian version of Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez, a champion fighter who can carry a nation on his back. Given our history as soldiers who have battled in many wars, Asians are as tough mentally and physically as anyone on this planet. And with the advent of One Fighting Championship, an MMA promotion based in Asia that can act as a base for future talent, there should be an expectation that one day, more of our Asian brothers and sisters will hold belts across many different organizations, especially in the UFC.


One FC may not provide the best Asian fighters yet, but they are definitely filling the ring with must see action!

Although an Asian fighter most likely won’t be wearing a championship belt in the heavier divisions; because simply, we don’t come in the Alistair Overeem “monster” sized package. There are plenty of divisions in the UFC which we “smaller” Asians compete in and should dominate, from the Flyweight to Lightweight divisions.

So we wait and pray, millions of us across the globe, for the day we can rally behind a great Asian fighter that not only wins a belt, but someone we, and the rest of the world can call the G.O.A.T. Someone who garners the same international fame and respect as Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao in the MMA arena.


No matter if Pac-Man wins, loses, or draws against Mayweather we think a pick up game could be an interesting rematch alternative.

Who are the next generation of great Asian fighters? Tell us.

Written by Editorial Staff