Zhang Lipeng

Photo credit to ONE Championship PR

Zhang Lipeng on ONE debut, Shinya Aoki, and Lee vs Yoon

Zhang Lipeng is coming off of a thorough victory over Eduard Folayang at ONE: Battleground II.

I spoke with the former TUF: China champ, with the aid of a translator, shortly after his successful debut in ONE Championship. Excerpts from my recent chat with Lipeng can be found below.

Zhang Lipeng

How Zhang is feeling after this win

“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m actually doing quarantine right now. But this quarantine for me is a very good rest for me. And I’ve been preparing for my fight with Folayang for a long time and I felt very frustrated. Finally, I get the victory. And now in this quarantine, I feel like I’m lying in this bed of this hotel like I’m a king.”

The importance of beating a former lightweight champion and the relief that comes with that

“Yeah, I feel relieved but not like that relieved. Maybe the first one or two days after I beat Folayang, I feel very like crazy. But now I’m preparing for my next fight. Mentally and physically preparing for maybe my next opponent. And I feel very calm right now.”

Targeting Shinya Aoki as an idealistic next opponent

“Yes, I call out Shinya Aoki right after I defeat Folayang. Right after when I was still in the Circle. Shinya replied to me pretty good. And I also replied to him one more time. We will see how ONE Championship will fix this fight. And I’m still waiting for the official reply.”

If the callout was more mindful of wanting to test skills with Shinya Aoki or more to facilitate getting towards a lightweight title shot as quick as possible

“The first reason of calling out Shinya Aoki is because I’ve actually been watching him fight for a very long time. Since I was young. It might sound like I call him old, but it is true. I’m a really big fan of him. And his jiu-jitsu was always I considered the best of the world. I consider to challenge him as challenging the best jiu-jitsu fighter. And also, you’re right. The second reason is, I think, by defeating him could bring me very fast to the world championship contenders line.”

The importance of eventually becoming ONE’s first male Chinese champion

“Yeah, I consider that as the biggest and the final achievement of my career. Cause not a single male MMA fighter have ever won a gold championship in any international organization. Especially an organization as big as ONE Championship, the biggest one. So I think winning that belt would be my biggest achievement and the biggest achievement of China male MMA.”

ONE Championship

Being part of UFC as well as Kunlun Fight and how it compared to the overall experience competing in ONE Championship for the first time

“Yeah, I gotta say, when I first went to UFC, I was too young for UFC. I wasn’t fully prepared. Mentally or physically and I feel like, I still got a lot to learn. To be in an international promotion. And when I was in Kunlun, I’ve been fighting more than 20 fights. I think that experience prepared me as a fighter who’s able to compete in a platform like ONE Championship.”

Zhang Lipeng continued, “And when I first joined ONE Championship when I fight my opponent, I feel like I’m fully prepared. I feel like I’m born for this. So every experience, no matter UFC or Kunlun, that all prepared me as a fighter today. To step in ONE Championship Circle.”

How the Eduard Folayang bout aligned with his preconceived notions

“He was quite the same when he was fighting me as I think he will be. I saw a lot of his fights and he always lost on the ground. His past few fights like all losses on the ground. And from the first first day I prepared for this fight, I was prepared on the ground. I was prepared for some ground game. So that’s the same as I prepared for war. For what he will do well against me and my strategy worked.”

Normative UFC weight cuts as compared to the ONE Championship hydration tests 

“Actually, I didn’t feel (the) struggle for the new weight cutting system. And actually, I think it suits me more than my previous organization. Because my manager told me about this new weight cutting system of ONE Championship when I first signed with ONE Championship. So I kind of began to maintain control of my weight, my body shape from then.”

Zhang Lipeng continued, “Before fight when I have to maintain my weight to what they asked me to do, I feel like normal. I didn’t feel like I’m cutting weight or hydration like I used to feel. So I think this weight-cutting system is better for me. I think ONE Championship’s system is better for me.”

If the hydration tests created compounded level of energy that reflected in the performance

“Yeah, when I was in other organizations in the last few days of the fighting, I might have to cut like five kg or six kg (roughly 13 pounds) per day. When I went to the cage, I wasn’t 100% of myself. My body condition was not 100% of myself. But in ONE Championship, I might have to live a more disciplined life before the fight. Like in one month, two months. But this cutting system made me 100% of myself when I fight. I think that’s the most important thing for a fighter. So I think this one’s better for me.”

Thoughts on the ONE lightweight title bout between Christian Lee and Ok Rae Yoon

“I actually think that Christian will win this fight like 70% chance. Because he got a lot of adventure in this fight. He’s more faster and his wrestling. I just don’t think the Korean guy would stop Christian Lee’s wrestling. And I wouldn’t say the Korean have no chance because I saw his last fight with Eddie Alvarez. He’d been stopping a lot of takedowns from Alvarez. But you know, Alvarez is not as big as Christian Lee and not as vicious as Christian Lee.”

Zhang Lipeng continued, “So I wouldn’t say he doesn’t have a chance. But I think Christian Lee will most likely take this fight. And if I’m preparing for my title fight, I will still prepare for Christian Lee right now.”

The level of tape study that Lipeng has done on Christian Lee 

“Yeah, I’ve been watching and studying the top tier of the ONE lightweight division even before I signed a contract. Because when there was a negotiation, I kind of like had known that I would be a ONE Championship athlete.”

Zhang Lipeng continued, “And yeah, I definitely study a lot of Christian Lee since he’s still the champion. And I think I kind of pretty well know a lot about his style. What he likes to do and maybe weaknesses. I think I will be fully prepared. One day I will face him.”

Parting thought for Zhang Lipeng

“That’s all for now.”

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