How China's Xiong Jingnan Made MMA History
The 31-year-old is the first ever Chinese World Champion in mixed martial arts history.
Xiong Jingnan will go down in history as China's first MMA world champion.
The history of martial arts competitions inside a cage goes back only a few decades, but the history of martial arts competitions in China goes back millenia.
So it was only a matter of time until a Chinese fighter won a major MMA championship title. But even so, most people were blind sided by the success of China’s first ever MMA champion - Xiong Jingnan.
But for Xiong, becoming a hero to her people was secondary to fulfilling a promise to her grandparents.
“As a child I used to tell my grandparents, “When I grow up I’ll be successful and have the money to buy you great food and anything you want. I always remember my promise to them. Now I have the ability to give them a better life, but they have passed away. My heartache and guilt is not easy for everyone to understand.”
From representing China as a part of the national boxing team, Xiong began training in mixed martial arts and debuted with Chinese promotion Kunlun Fight at the age of 26.
A nine and one record garnered the notice of Singapore’s One Championship, Asia’s biggest MMA promotion, and her dream of becoming one of only a handful of professional Chinese MMA fighters came true.
She debuted against April Osenio, a Philippino wushu champion and member of the infamous Team Lakay who had produced several world champions already. Osenio had been fighting under the bright lights of One for two and a half years, but if Xiong was intimidated, it was impossible to tell.
How much the win meant to the rising star was clear from her reaction. Her win was so impressive that she earned a shot at the newly created One strawweight title in her very next fight, scheduled for little more than six weeks later.
Xiong Jingnan was now in the exact position she had worked and trained so hard for her entire life. Yet the work had taken its toll and the sacrifices Xiong had been forced to make were extraordinary.
“As a daughter, it’s your responsibility to take care of your parents.And I feel guilty not to have fulfilled that duty. My grandparents passed away when I was competing and I didn’t get to pay my last respects. My parents didn’t inform me because they didn’t want to pull me out of the competition. I was very upset because I was chasing my dream.”
Xiong’s opponent in the title fight was the undefeated Singaporean Tiffany Teo who was coming into the bout having won her last four matchups under the One Championship banner.
Teo took Xiong to the mat early and often in the first round keeping the Chinese challenger out of her comfort zone. But Xiong began to land heavy leather and the fight began to swing in her direction.
By the fourth round Teo’s face told the story of Xiong’s power and, two minutes into the round, a series of rights convinced the Singaporean that she wanted no further part in the battle.
Xiong Jingnan was crowned the first ever Chinese MMA world champion and in victory she gave a passionate and personal message, dedicating the win "to my grandparents in heaven. I did it!”
Xiong finished off 2018 with two more defences of her title and both went in a now recognisable fashion, first pummelling Laura Balin into a unanimous decision defeat, before out striking Samara Santos with shots so hard the Brazilian had to wave the bout off herself part way through the third.
Her dominance was now so extreme that ONE tapped their star fighter, undefeated atomweight prodigy Angela Lee, to move up a division to face her.
Lee had absolutely destroyed everyone she had faced, and everyone assumed Xiong would suffer the same fate.
"We have been training for Jingnan for a while now and I think her style and my style match up perfectly. And I believe that we are both very aggressive, forward pressure fighters and we are going to meet in the middle in that cage on Sunday night and we are going to see what happens."
It was the toughest fight of Xiong’s career as, late in the fourth, the grappling phenomenon Lee caught the Chinese champion in a deep armbar. But Xiong survived and 90 seconds into the final round, landed a series of head and body blows that looked to steal Angela Lee’s soul.
With the championship belt again draped over her shoulder, Xiong Jingnan’s position as the greatest female fighter in the promotion and a hero to her entire nation was confirmed.
The first Chinese MMA world champion in history - nothing can take that away from her.