Translation by David Stern
Li Jingling takes his second fight in the UFC on October 4, 2014 against Nordine Taleb at UFC Fight Night 54 as part of the main card.
The Chinese athlete has done more than break ground for his countrymen: Li has competed in an international field when many of his compadres couldn’t, and at just 26 years old he has been afforded the chance to gain overseas training with both Jimmy Gifford and Ricky Lundell.
Li has a wide road ahead of him, but it won’t be easy. He knows that, even though he has the confidence and charisma of three men. When Li was pit against Legend FC Champ Bae Myoung-Ho – widely commented upon as the next hot middleweight out of Asia – Li not only took the pre-fight muck-slinging antics in stride, he also handed the former champ a huge plate of take downs and more power than the Korean had ever faced.
Li wasn’t fortunate in the decision outcome of that championship match, but at the Legend FC final event, he grabbed the vacated title for his own with his trademark guillotine; the Leech made good. After that, the China Top Team grappling stand out followed Zhang TieQuan into the UFC.
MMA-in-ASIA spoke with Li ahead of his second UFC fight, and his new outlook from his recent experiences are shared fully.
MMA-in-ASIA: After your first win in the Octagon, how did you feel for the next couple of days?
Li: After my first win I just felt like I wanted to get back into the gym and get better so that eventually I can make a run at the belt.
MMA-in-ASIA: Did the experience make you think differently about training, or about daily life?
Li: Definitely. I realized there’s a science behind training that I didn’t really get before. I realized I have a huge responsibility to help my teammates and other fighters back home to understand this and change the way they think about training. With regards to my daily life, what really opened my eyes was all the people back home and in Vegas who helped me so much without ever asking for anything. All these people really made me think that I need to work hard to help those around me and be a better person.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you gained any more fame at home?
Li: Yeah. I wouldn’t say I’m famous, but a lot of people know about the fight. I have more than 130,000 followers on Weibo!
MMA-in-ASIA: So physically what did you learn from the last fight?
Li: I learned how to prepare like a professional. Especially I learned the safe and healthy way to diet before a fight so that I don’t have to cut too much the day before which can be unhealthy.
MMA-in-ASIA: What have you changed in your training since then?
Li: I learned to follow my coaches’ strategy and consider my opponent’s style when preparing for a fight. I also learned how to train “smart” instead of just going 3 times a day to the gym and pushing my body too hard. Probably the biggest change in my training is that now I am training full time with Ruben Payan and Tommy at the Institute of Human Performance (IHP). They have so much knowledge about how the body works and how to see results without over-training. This has made a huge difference in how my body feels going into this fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: Your opponent has strong striking. Will you go back to being the Leech, or are you eager to express a more well-rounded skill set?
Li: I will always be the Leech. I love this sport and, no matter what, I will always bring it all into the cage. But I’ve definitely learned to fight smarter. The level of my opponents has improved so much that it’s forcing me to stay on point and always fight to the best of my abilities.
MMA-in-ASIA: Who have you been training with for this fight?
Li: I’ve been working with all my teammates at China Top Team like Ji Xian and Wu Haotian. I’ve also been working with Vince Soberano at Black Tiger and of course with with Ruben Payan for my strength and conditioning.
MMA-in-ASIA: Would you make some recommendations for the next TUF China?
Li: I never really thought about that. I’m not a promoter.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you been able to help to make changes in how MMA fighters train in China?
Li: A little. I teach classes at China Top Team and give advice to some of the younger athletes, but it will take some time for any major changes to take root.
MMA-in-ASIA: Did you take any time off after your last fight, and if so, what did you do?
Li: I went back to my home town for a little while to visit my family and relaxed a little.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are some of your hobbies when you’re not training?
Li: I love riding motorcycles, so I’m really hoping that Harley Davidson will consider me for future sponsorship! I also love to hang out with my friends for some good Chinese BBQ!