There's a famous Chinese saying that goes, "The man who endures hardship will be the one who rises to the top."
It's a quote that has largely resonated with Li Kai Wen throughout his short but already illustrious mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
The 19-year-old Chinese fighter emerged victorious after a fiercely contested Beijing Featherweight Tournament at the recent ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS.
In doing so, Li is slowly but surely making a name for himself in not just the burgeoning Chinese MMA community, but also in the global MMA landscape.
Working on one's weaknesses
With a background in wrestling (he's been practicing the sport for over 10 years), it came as a surprise to fight fans that Li was equally strong in his stand up game.
During his semi-final match up against the more experienced He Nan Nan, Li landed a sweet left hook that knocked He off his feet, before landing a barrage of strikes to force referee Olivier Coste to end the match.
He impressed once more in the Featherweight Tournament finals against compatriot Wang Ya Wei, showcasing his speed, strength and accuracy throughout both rounds to take the title.
"Why do you not see more wrestling in my fights? It's because I am training my stand up game everyday and trying to fill in all the holes in my games," Li asserted, with conviction.
"I train my weaknesses, not ignore them. I know how long it took me to become a great wrestler, so I train and use striking as much I can in fights and I'm becoming very good at it," he added.
Training amongst top talents
The young freestyle wrestler first found out about MMA when he chanced upon videos of top Brazilian MMA fighter Anderson da Silva.
"Since I knew what MMA was about, I have been hooked!" Li exclaimed.
A friend then introduced him to Tianjin K-1 MMA club, and the rest is history.
Cited as one of China's most reputable fight clubs and gyms, the K-1 club is home to top Chinese MMA fighters such as ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS headliner Song Ya Dong.
"If I was never introduced to K-1 club, there's no way I would reach the skill level I am at now. I appreciate that introduction more than anything," Li answered gratefully.
"Sparring with guys like Song everyday, you get better quickly. With K-1 club's fighters and coaches, it is hard not to have confidence." Li declared.
Fit as a fiddle
Besides his striking prowess, spectators were also left in awe of the young fighter's phenomenal physique, which he credits to his coaches.
"There are times in training that I can't crawl back to my feet, and my coaches will run through a 'shark bait' drill. If we do not fight to get on our feet, seven or eight different guys will beat us up," the Featherweight fighter reminisced.
"Of course, I hate that drill but I know I need it. I just grit my teeth until I've succeeded," he added.
The growth of Chinese MMA
ONE Championship's debut in China was a resounding success, highlighting the potential of Chinese fighters such as Li to go the distance in Asia's top MMA promotion.
Fight fans all around the world got their first glimpse of the calibre of Chinese fighters, and the sky's the limit for Chinese MMA.
"Until now, China has been missing shows like ONE - a place for fighters to prove themselves fairly and in massive areas. Now that ONE is here, watch China's MMA talent explode!" Li proclaimed, full of hope.
And indeed, the future does looks bright for Li, Chinese MMA and ONE.