5 of the best Chinese fighters right now

MMA in China is more popular than ever thanks to these five fighters.
UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira
UFC 281: Adesanya v Pereira / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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The popularity and cultural significance of Chinese martial arts are a big reason there was ever an interest in the possibility of mixed-form combat. In large part, the global fascination in the art of fighting owes a lot to the influence of kung-fu, the warrior monks of Shaolin, and China's rich combat tradition.

Long before the West was exposed to Chinese action films, fighting had a long and storied history in China. Similar to the gladiator matches of ancient Rome, China hosted a sport called Lei Tai. This brutal spectator sport took place in an elevated arena between two combatants. It was not uncommon for some contests to include weapons, but many resembled modern mixed martial arts in the sense that they primarily included striking and grappling. Matches sometimes went to the death but often ended in an opponent either being incapacitated, surrendering, or getting tossed from the stage.

Sanda is China's modern equivalent and is a full-contact kickboxing style incorporating sweeps and wrestling takedowns. Many Chinese athletes take part today and gain valuable martial arts and self-defense experience through this art.

Perhaps most famously, the legendary Chinese martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee was one of the first modern fighters to break tradition and combine techniques from multiple disciplines into his style, Jeet Kune Do (the way of the intercepting fist). This is the precursor to mixed martial arts.

Today, MMA has gained popularity in China not only thanks to warriors representing the nation in organizations across the globe, but thanks to a growing regional scene and popular promotion called Kunlun Fight headquartered in Beijing. Many of China's greatest stars established themselves as world-class talent there before finding success overseas.

These are the Chinese athletes pushing MMA to new heights: