The UFC has selected nine Chinese fighters to compete in the Road to UFC series beginning in June. The list includes several top names in Chinese MMA and a few that participated in Dana White’s Contender Series last year.
Road to UFC a pathway created by the UFC for Asian fighters to earn UFC contracts. Four eight-man tournaments- one for each of the weight classes from flyweight to lightweight- will progress through the year, with the finals taking place at the end of the year to decide who will win the contracts. The opening road takes place on June 9th and 10th at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore, just before UFC 275 on the 11th.
While the tournament will feature fighters from South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and other Asian countries, the nine fighters below were announced on the UFC’s Douyin channel this weekend. Xie Bin, Qiu Lun, and Lu Kai’s participation were reported by Chris Presnell last week. No opponents or official dates were revealed for the fighters.
“Snow Leopard” Balajin (17-2) – Lightweight
Balajin is an ethnic Mongolian that exemplifies the wrestling and peak conditioning typical of his comrades. He’s on a wicked tear right now and has beaten plenty of quality opponents in JCK, WLF, and Chin Woo Men. He was poised to make a run for the JCK championship last year before he pulled out from injury. Like his fellow Mongolians Alateng Heili and Aoriqileng, Balajin is training at Fight Ready MMA in Arizona currently.
Xie “The Stalker” Bin (8-3) – Featherweight
Xie is a veteran of ONE Championship and performed exceptionally well there. Before trying his hand at the Contender Series last November, he’d rattled off seven straight victories for ONE. He won three straight by D’Arce Choke, and his most recent win is over respected Filipino Edward Kelly. He didn’t show out to his full potential in his Contender Series loss last fall, and gets a second shot to impress in June.
Yi Zha (19-3) – Featherweight
Out of the same gym that’s produced great Tibetan prospects like Sumudaerji, Rong Zhu, and Banma Duoji, Yi Zha fights out of Enbo Gedou in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. He’s a former champion in WLF and has ten wins by submission. His last fight was against 2021 JCK breakout star Li Jingtao last September for WBK/M-1.
Lu Kai (7-3) – Featherweight
While he hasn’t fought in the Chinese MMA scene as long as the other names on this list, Lu Kai has quickly shown his skill and power in recent years. He comes from a Judo background and scored a highlight-reel KO in Slovakia last March where he dropped a hammer on Adam Fidkowski, leaving him stiff as the first round closed.
Xiao Long (22-7) – Bantamweight
Fighting of out Xindu Martial Arts in China’s Shanxi province, Xiao Long has long been a poster boy and belt holder for WLF. Since his flat performance on the Contender Series last year, he’s won two straight for WLF, including a championship fight in March. He’s back on track and hoping for a more spirited performance when he enters the Road to UFC tournament his summer.
Keremuaili “The Kirghiz Eagle” Maimaitituoheti (26-10) – Bantamweight
A mysterious but powerful entrant to the tournament is ethnic Kirghiz Keremuaili Maimaitituoheti. He was supposed to fight on the Contender Series last year, but the opportunity never fulled materialized. His record is ridiculous, as he holds wins over Yi Zha, Wulijiburen, Buhuoyouga, and Xiao Long, to name just a few.
Wulijiburen “The Beastmaster” (20-8) – Bantamweight
The only fighter on this list to already compete in the UFC, Wulijiburen went 0-3 in his UFC run. Since being released, he’s fought mostly for WLF and gone 4-1 over very experienced competition. After a 29-second flying knee KO win over Ayijiake Zhejiang, “The Beastmaster” is ready to make his second attempt at a UFC contract.
Qiu Lun (15-8) – Flyweight
Entertaining scrapper Qiu Lun lost a contentious decision to Erisson Ferreira on the Contender Series last year, and it was clear that he deserved a second shot. Qiu Lun trains primarily at Enbo Gedou, like Yi Zha, and has spend considerable time at the UFC Shanghai PI like many on this list.
Zhang Mingyang (15-6) – Light Heavyweight
Zhang may not have the name recognition as others on this list, but he’s a fun entrant to the line-up. He’ll compete in a non-tournament bout alongside the tournament quarterfinals and try to earn his sixth straight first-round knockout. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs against a step up in competition and what kind of opponent he’ll draw.
Road to UFC airs on UFC Fight Pass worldwide on June 9th and 10th at 2:30am EST on both days.