Martial arts may have roots in Asia, but that does not mean it has stagnated. In recent years, a revolution has been brewing across the continent with a new wave of exceptional talent thanks to the growth of mixed martial arts.
And women have played an enormous role in that growth.
With two global promotions dedicated to elevating the sport and its female athletes, fans have been treated to their inspiring performances. The impact of which has reverberated across borders.
These are five incredible female martial artists who have helped the martial arts revolution grow across Asia.
The ONE Atomweight World Champion has been a beacon for the next generation of women martial artists since arriving in ONE Championship. And she has exemplified her nickname, “Unstoppable,” in the atomweight division to spark excitement since her professional debut.
Lee has repped her multicultural heritage since her debut in 2015 as a teen upstart. After a 5-0 start to her career, she defeated veteran Mei Yamaguchi to win the inaugural ONE Atomweight World Title, and she has never let it go since.
But her story is an inspiration in and outside of ONE’s Circle. She has overcome pneumonia, a car crash, and most recently returned less than a year after giving birth to her daughter to successfully defend her title against Stamp Fairtex.
Lee has been an example to follow for Asian mixed martial artists. She has dedicated herself to improving each day, overcoming the most difficult of obstacles, and continues to display the martial arts spirit that makes her the best atomweight on the planet.
34-year-old Zhang Weili has been carrying the banner for China. She became the first-ever Chinese UFC World Champion in 2019 when she won the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship.
Her exciting style has endeared her to fans around the world, but the impact in China has been immeasurable.
As the nation’s first UFC champion, her place in history is assured. She instantly became one of the poster women for the sport in her country. In the following years, more athletes from the country, both men and women, have ascended toward the top following her lead.
Now that she has reclaimed the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship, Zhang continues to be an icon of MMA in China.
MMA luminary Rich Franklin discovered Stamp Fairtex while he was in Thailand, scouting other talents. The sound of her kicks crashing into bags captivated his attention, and ever since, she has captivated fans in much the same way.
When Stamp first arrived, it was in the Muay Thai and kickboxing ranks. She quickly won titles in both sports. She could have remained there and been a long-standing fixture in the striking arena. However, she expressed interest in becoming a three-sport World Champion and conquering the MMA world.
While many may have seen her signature “Stamp Dance” and claimed it was all a show, her progression and results soon silenced those doubters. Stamp has become a threat no matter where the action takes place and has shown it against the world’s most challenging opposition.
Stamp is becoming one of the biggest stars in all of martial arts. Her captivating charisma and bubbly personality are fused with her mesmerizing brutality inside the Circle. Her impact is being felt in real-time, and she’ll try a second time to claim MMA gold on Friday, September 29, at ONE Fight Night 14.
Xiong Jing Nan
Zhang is not the only Chinese athlete who has been elevating the sport in the country. The first-ever Chinese MMA World Champion, “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, continues to shine on the global stage.
The ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion has maintained her stranglehold over the division since assuming the post in 2018. She has taken on all challenges, including thwarting Angela Lee’s chances to become a two-division champion on two separate occasions.
“The Panda” continues to accept challenges from all areas. At ONE Fight Night 14, Xiong will battle Nat “Wondergirl” Jaroonsak in a special rules striking matchup in four-ounce gloves to showcase her powerful boxing skills.
Xiong was the first to bring back gold to her country. She has been the standard and helped spark the sport’s tremendous growth in China. Her legacy is still being written but will show her incredible impact through future generations.
Ham Seo Hee
Ham Seo Hee has been an unsung hero in the sport, but her influence should not be forgotten.
Ham made her professional debut in 2007 and competed in DEEP, Smackgirl, and Jewels. She even competed against Megumi Fujii, a pioneer of women’s MMA, early in her career. But her biggest influence did not begin until she returned to the Asian scene in 2017.
After a few years of competing above her natural weight, Ham put together a six-bout winning streak at atomweight before joining ONE. That streak has not stopped since joining the world’s largest martial arts company, as she has picked up three wins and become a top contender in the division.
The South Korean will meet Stamp for the ONE Interim Atomweight World Title at ONE Fight Night 14. A victory would be the culmination of her tireless work over the years and be the crowning achievement of a veteran who has helped grow the revolution in Asia.