Last year Yang Sen burst onto the scene by beating two opponents in a single night to win ONE Championship’s second Beijing Featherweight Tournament. This Saturday night he will be back in action and looking for a third straight win for Asia’s biggest MMA promotion.
The 21-year-old’s MMA career is very much in its infancy but, as he prepares to face fellow tournament winner Li Kai Wen in Changsha on Saturday night, Yang tells ROUGH that he’s been preparing for this moment for virtually his entire life.
“My father raised me strictly. His own dream was to become a fight champion and win glory for our motherland. Conditions did not permit my dad to fulfill his dream, so he put hope in me to carry on where he left off. I accepted his training from a very small age, and hope one step at a time I can eventually become the champion my father wished to be.”
Yang started out just practicing the form but he soon became frustrated with the lack of physical application and decided to try his hand at competitive combat sport,
“I began to practice Wushu movements from a very young age. Just training movements felt meaningless and eventually I got interested in Sanda, which I’ve trained now for almost ten years.”
In 2013 he became the Liaoning Provincial Sanda Champion and the following year he won the Beijing City Sanda Championship. Yang can still remember his first ever competitive fight and the conflicting emotions he felt as he made his debut.
“The first time I fought I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I didn’t recognise feeling tired, excited or nervous, but looking back all these feelings were felt very strongly. I do remember very clearly that I won though.”
In MMA terms Yang is a relative beginner. He was only introduced to the sport for the first time last year but says he is a fast learner.
“I’ve been training MMA for only about a year but love the feeling of fighting in the cage. I love the variables in MMA and the endless possibilities really capture my interest in the sport. My base is striking and that’s still where I find the techniques I like most, I especially like kicks. I’m still learning Jiu Jitsu and want to show everyone my improvements.”
Yang still has a very strong sense of where his roots are and is extremely proud of the region he comes from, “My hometown is a small village in Liaoning Province. The people there are outstanding, I love where I’m from.”
It seems the feeling is mutual. People from Yang’s village follow his career closely and appreciate the work that has been going on behind the scenes since his childhood.
“Everyone in my hometown knew my dad trained me hard. Sometimes they would notice me limping on my way to school but finally people can see my achievements in the cage and know all that hard work has paid off.”
If winning the second ONE Beijing Featherweight Tournament was the crowning achievement of Yang’s career he can top that by beating Wen on Saturday night. A win would take his pro record to 3-0 and feels he is finally reaping the rewards after all those years of dedication and sacrifice,
“Everyone back in my hometown, especially my mum says I’ve put in so much hard work to become who I have become. I never ran from struggle, and now I am enjoying the fruits of that hard work.”