Not everything the UFC touches turns to gold right away. Case in point—the first ever production of The Ultimate Fighter in China.
During a Q&A in Singapore (h/t mmajunkie.com) with Cung Le, the man filling Dana White’s shoes for TUF: China, prior to UFC Fight Night 34: Saffiedine vs. Lim, a member of the audience asked about the appearance of Li Jinying, a Yoga Instructor with no prior MMA experience who made it onto the show as a fighter.
Le quickly made sure to note that the appearance of Jinying was not an error on the part of the UFC and that the fault was more of a production error.
“I’m not sure how many of you have seen the show, but some Yoga instructor got through,” Le said. “That was not the UFC’s doing. I believe that was part of the TV show—he was from the hometown—and somehow that guy snuck under the radar.”
Le continued: “That was a decision I had to make. If you haven’t watched it yet, I won’t ruin it, but one of the coaches had to go and put a little hurt on him and let him feel what punches with four-ounce gloves feel like.”
It appears as if Jinying was hoping an appearance on the show might translate into fame and recognition.
Ironically, this isn’t the first time something similar to this has happened. During season 5 of TUF, Corey Hill admitted that he lied about his experience to get on the show and in fact had just two amateur MMA fights under his belt.
Hill would go on to do respectably well on the show and even fought in the UFC twice before suffering the same kind of horrific leg break that cost Anderson Silva his rematch with Chris Weidman at UFC 168.
But at least some amateur experience is better than no experience at all. Thankfully, it sounds as if Le took the appropriate measures to ensure that Jinying found out just what he had talked his way into.
Given that MMA is still in its infancy in China, finding viable talent suitable for the television audience that watches TUF with certain expectations was no doubt challenging. These are the steps that must be taken if the UFC wants to grow the sport globally at a grassroots level, and sometimes a stumble is bound to occur.
Le also talked about his desire to get back into the Octagon in 2014 to finish out his contract with the UFC (which has three fights remaining), and he also talked about his toughest fight in MMA.
“My toughest fight I would have to say against Frank Shamrock,” Le said. “Just because he kept coming, and he rocked me a few times, and it was just one of those great battles that I enjoyed, you know, punching his face.”