A small village on the outskirts of Northwestern Sichuan is an unlikely place for the sport of MMA, but that could all change this weekend.
Come Saturday night, Su Mudaerji (11-3) will step into the Octagon as the first Tibetan in the UFC for a short notice fight against Louis Smolka (14-5) on the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 141.
It’s a huge opportunity for the 22-year-old, who cut his teeth on China’s regional circuit with Wu Lin Feng and one he says he is ready to embrace.
“I only signed with the UFC two weeks ago. It’s a little bit rushed, but I’m enjoying every moment of it,” Su told Asia MMA during UFC Beijing media day.
“I’m really happy to be here to fight for the UFC. I’m also the first fighter from Tibet so I’m proud and very excited.”
Su grew up in Aba, a small village in Northwestern Sichuan where his parent made a living farming corn and potatoes. In 2010 he shifted to Chendu to pursued a career in martial arts.
He started training in Sanda and later the transition to MMA.
“When I was a kid I loved sport. I played basketball and soccer for fun. I got the chance to train martial arts and I liked the intensity of competition and training. Being in the cage itself makes me very excited. I enjoy these kinds of moments.”
Despite some initial hesitation, Su’s parents are supportive of his chosen career.
“My parents always thought MMA was a hard sport, they didn’t want to see their kids get beaten or kicked. But they support me.”
Welcoming Su into the UFC is former flyweight contender Louis Smolka, who return to the Octagon at bantamweight riding a three-fight win streak.
On paper it’s a great match up, Su’s last three wins have come via knockout and he says his time with WLF has prepared him for the big leagues.
“WLF definitely gave me experience and helped me adjust my technique and improve my mental game. It gave me the experience to adjust to the bigger stage.”
UFC Fight Night 141 goes down at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing on Saturday 24 Nov.