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  • Writer's pictureChris Presnell

Fifth UFC Academy combine in Shanghai underway, drawing fighters from Asian continent

The UFC Academy combine is unfolding in Shanghai

The fifth annual UFC Academy combine, kicked off on Sunday in Shanghai, China, but there's one key difference to previous years: it won't be only Chinese fighters trying out for a coveted scholarship this year.

The Academy combine traditionally invites dozens of fighters from all throughout China to the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai to try out for a training scholarship at the facilities. Over the course of four days, the PI staff run the athletes through a series of physical tests that produce concrete data on the fighter's skills and abilities.

The combine runs from March 18th through the 21st, and hosts forty-two fighters in total. The format of the examination remains the same as previous years' Combines, with a few new tests (oriented around striking) exchanged for old ones.

At the end of the combine, the coaches rank the field of athletes and award the top portion of combatants with a spot in the Academy. 2024 marks the first year that fighters from other Asian countries are allowed to try out, with five additional fighters joining the Chinese contingent.

From India, Sumit Kumar and Roshan Mainam, who both have ties to previous Road to UFC seasons, contend for their spot. Kumar (4-1) competed on season two of Road to UFC, dropping a decision to Choi Seung Guk in the quarterfinal round. The talented wrestler has trained all over the world, including Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, and most recently, Bali MMA in Indonesia.

Mainam (6-3), a veteran of ONE Championship, was in talks to join the first season of Road to UFC in 2022, but the plans never came to fruition. Mainam went 2-1 for ONE and hasn't competed since 2021.

Representing Indonesia, Yudi Cahyadi and Gugun Gusman will look to become the first UFC Academy athletes from their country. The participation of these two Indonesian fighters was announced at a press conference held by One Pride MMA at the end of January. Gusman (12-4), a Road to UFC veteran and One Pride MMA bantamweight champion, has won four straight since his appearance on RTU.

Yudi Cahyadi (6-2) is a former One Pride featherweight champion with a sanda background. An impressive five-fight finishing streak in One Pride was recently broken by Muharram Firman at One Pride Fight Night 76 in February, dropping a unanimous decision.

Another name familiar to Road to UFC fans will be Sim Kai Xiong (5-1) from Singapore, who remains one of the top prospects from the country. He's arrived in Shanghai to serve as the lone Singaporean to try out. Xiong last fought at Road to UFC last May, falling to Peter Danesoe in a non-tournament flyweight fight.

These fighters from South and Southeast Asia would benefit from the deep coaching roster, scientific approach, and facilities of the PI should they succeed to pass the combine, living in the Chinese megacity of Shanghai in the meantime. While some of these fighters could be picked for an upcoming Road to UFC season, that spot is not necessarily on the line during the tests of the UFC Academy combine.

Conveniently, the third season of Road to UFC will open in the same space at the combine, with the opening round slated for May 18th and 19th at the Shanghai PI. The next two round should take place in mid-September and mid-December at locations TBD.

Casting is still taking place, but many of the spots have been filled already. Expect to hear announcements on matchups in April, and stay tuned to MMA Ecosystem for the latest in Road to UFC and UFC Academy announcements.


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