At 44 years old, Chinese bantamweight Jiang LongYun is pushing the limits of what is physically possible in the mixed martial arts (MMA) cage.
In a sport where few fighters over the age of 40 are able to reach the upper echelon – most notably Randy Couture, who fought until age 47, and Dan Henderson, currently 41 – Jiang is an elite fighter, a physical anomaly who will make his RUFF debut on September 8 against undefeated top-prospect Jumabieke Tuerxun.
"For me this is nothing out of the ordinary," comments Jiang. "This is how I live. This is what I love to do."
Jiang, who hails from China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang, has had no shortage of opportunities to hone his fighting techniques. As a child, he showed no interest in studying, preferring instead to wrestle and box with his older brothers, his older sister, and the kids in his village.
This innocent childhood pugnacity eventually turned into something more, and Jiang gravitated to Jiaxiang County in Shandong Province to learn about qigong, the ancient Chinese art of healing and energy cultivation. Upon realizing qigong wasn’t for him, Jiang shifted his efforts to the boxing ring.
After a year of studying the sweet science, Jiang suffered a slight head injury, forcing him out of the ring. But given his persistent character, he found another outlet for his passion in the Heilongjiang Chinese-style wrestling team.
Three years on the mat eventually gave way to a chronic shoulder injury, and lacking a suitable mentor, Jiang left wrestling altogether, instead choosing a business-inspired emigration path to Russia.
A realist, a warrior, and a cerebral fighter, Jiang’s move across China’s northern border proved fruitful, immersing himself in Sambo and Taekwondo techniques to complement his boxing and wrestling prowess.
For all the skills he acquired in Russia, Jiang, in 2000, while on a return visit home in Heilongjiang, also suffered a tragic, life-changing altercation, when he was attacked by two men and stabbed 11 times, puncturing both of his lungs.
"It was all just superficial wounds" states Jiang unassumingly. "Everything was sewed up, and after a few months, I was totally fine."
Using his vast combat skill set, Jiang managed to knock one of his attackers out cold, and resisted the other aggressor, before a crowd eventually formed on the street to scare them both away.
With the scars of his near-fatal wounds still fresh in his memory and prevalent on his torso, Jiang, in 2005, set off for South Korea to study Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, and became infatuated with the now-defunct PRIDE MMA organization.
"After watching PRIDE on TV, I couldn’t bear it; I just had to study MMA," explains Jiang.
At 38, Jiang returned to mainland China, looking for any opportunity to fight; however, many promotions questioned his relevance due to his advanced age.
"For us older guys, if there’s any place we don’t stack up, it’s overall physical ability," states Jiang. "But MMA’s [unrestricted] rule-set allows for the use of many techniques, so even if a fighter possesses less pure physical ability, as long as he has technique, then he has a lot of chances to win."
Compiling a 5-2 record while fighting for regional MMA promotions in China and Asia at large, Jiang, prior to his RUFF debut on September 8, has already amassed impressive victories over touted bantamweight Yao HongGang and world-champion boxer Yodsanan Sityodtong.
Nearing middle age, however, Jiang recognizes the time constraints on his fighting career, prompting his foray into coaching as the head of Harbin’s LongYun MMA Club, home of RUFF contenders Shang ZhiFa, a flyweight, light heavyweight Kong HanDong, and featherweights Wu ChengJie and Yuan ChunBo.
Turning his turbulent life experience into a paradigm of combat sports success, Jiang now shares his knowledge with dozens of professional and amateur students, while still remaining competitive against men half his age.
Now set to return to the cage as a competitor in RUFF’s RMB 1,000,000 Super Fight series, Jiang is unfazed by the prospect of becoming China’s first bantamweight national champion, the first nationally affiliated champion of any kind.
"Until I see the million, it doesn’t matter to me," explains Jiang. "Right now, I’m fighting for my honor. And for that, I’ll fight to the end."
Tasked with the opportunity to be the first fighter to defeat Jumabieke Tuerxun, a formidable opponent who is currently 25-0 in the MMA cage, Jiang remains focused, solely concentrating on a victory at RUFF 5.
"First, fight. First, win. First, become champion. I’m not thinking about anything else right now."
More on RUFF 5, including updated fight matchups and television broadcast information, to come.
For all the latest news on RUFF and RUFF 5, check www.ruffchina.com