Li Jingliang of China Top Team makes his incredible tenth Octagon appearance at UFC Fight Night 132 in Singapore on 23 June.
Li began his career in MMA in 2007 as a grappler type and a welterweight. These were two things that China didn’t have a lot of back then. So he got the name Leech (nobody could pull him off) and he started fighting internationally.
Leech came to wide recognition with two matches, starting in 2011. The first was a brilliant barn burner with Muay Thai slugger Alex Niu. The second was a title challenge against Legend FC welterweight champ Bae Myung-Ho, in which he showed astounding development, and manhandled the previously un-takedown-able grinder.
After two more matches in Legend FC with wins over Dan Pauling and Luke Jumeau, Li got the UFC call in 2014. All of China MMA rippled with pride. It was thrilling to watch this 26-year old Chinese kid who spent so much time working on personal improvement finally get a shot under the bright lights.
Now Li sits at 6-3 in the UFC with a brilliant fight against Bobby Nash, two Fight of the Night bonuses, and a Performance of the Night bonus against Zak Ottow. It seems that Li’s way to handle this fame and fortune is to bring his whole family along for the journey.
Which is what’s happening with him during this trip to Singapore. Leech was surrounded by his team and family at a table overflowing with love and chili. Add to this the June humidity, and there was indeed a warmth permeating the evening.
I was able to catch a few moments with Leech during the evening, and hopefully this short conversation will impart a little of his charming, funny, and caring personality.
There is a huge group at your table right now. How many people from your family are here?
Everyone! [Laughs] They are all like my family. There’s my daughter and my wife, my brother, another brother, and friends from my hometown. They’re old friends. And there are two friends here who’ve been documenting us for years, that’s why they have a camera. They’re old friends too. And my coach.
You’re in Singapore, a foodie heaven but why are you eating at a Beijing Mutton restaurant?
Tell me what’s good in Singapore?
Everything. Chicken rice, many curries, seafood.
Seafood’s not powerful enough for me. I need more energy. Real meat! [Laughs] We’re all going to have seafood tomorrow, after the fight.
What’s your plan In the Octagon?
To win. A beautiful win. And that extra money too!
Does your family usually travel with you to fights?
In the past, no. But now, I want to bring my family overseas to my fights more often. Hopefully, one day I can bring my parents to watch me fight. They live kind of far away from Beijing, and they’re not in the best condition. I should plan really well for that.
Hopefully one day you can fight in Beijing. Maybe there are plans for a UFC Beijing. Then it will be easier for them to come.
Well of course, what do you think? Certainly that’s going to happen one day. Let’s make it this year. Main event.