No Holds Barred: Bill Eng on MMA and Sanda in China

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with fighter manager Bill Eng (

Bill was born in New York but has lived in China for many years, and was visiting New York this week. We spoke with him Sunday in New York's Chinatown.

The MMA and combat sports scenes are booming in China today, but not a lot about them is known by many people in the West.

"There are a lot of organizers, organizations local in each province, in each major capital city itself," he said, running fight events.

"There is a disconnect between the Western world and them, because they don't Facbook it, they don't Twitter it, but in Chinese media, they are there."

Many shows feature both MMA and Sanda fights on the same card. Sanda is a standup style of fighting which also allows throws, but no grappling.

"There's a lot of top Chinese talent that are in the Sanda circle and also in the MMA circle," he said.

"Just alone I have 100-something fighters. We have events almost every week. That's how busy we are."

One of the most popular shows in China is Chinese Kung Fu, or CKF. It features both MMA and Sanda fights in a Sanda ring. CKF airs on Tuesday nights on CCTV-5, China's national sports channel, and has a huge audience.

"We've got top talent there," he said. "You fight on that show, and you win a title, basically everybody is going to know you. You walk down the street and people are going to know you. Because that's what everybody is watching. That's what the middle class, that's what the proletariat, everybody."

CKF is "a main Chinese show because it's on CCTV. It reaches all across China. It's on public TV. It's in the public newspapers and media."

There are also many other popular shows. King of Combat, or Bojiwang, also features a hybrid of MMA and Sanda. Beijing Fight Night is on CCTV as well, featuring four MMA fights and four Sanda fights on its shows. Wulingfeng (The Martial Path) is, he said, the most popular show in China, featuring mostly Sanda and also some MMA fights. It airs on Hunan Cable.

With the use of the Internet, Wi-Fi, set-top boxes, and smartphones, many fights can be seen all throughout China.

We also discussed how Sanda is still far more popular in China than MMA, how many fighters in China are relatively well-paid, the rules used in MMA events in China, how non-Chinese MMA companies are not well-known in China and have had mixed success at best, how grappling is still not that big but is growing in China, and much, much more.

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