Khai “The Shadow” Wu
Khai Wu is a Professional MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Fighter out of Tracy, CA. He fights in the bantamweight (135 lb) division and trains at the Onmi Movement MMA and Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu gyms.
Hi Khai, the team at The Hungry Sloth are huge MMA fans and are honored to be speaking to you about your profession and what goes on inside the life of an MMA fighter. Let’s dive in!
First off, congratulations on recently winning the CCW featherweight title! Since you naturally fight at bantamweight (135 lbs), what was it like moving up in weight to 145 lbs for this title fight? Do you have any plans on also capturing the CCW bantamweight title to become the “double champ” of the promotion?
Thank you for allowing me to chat with you guys and for being interested in my career. This title fight I was recently in was a short notice fight, so that’s why I went up a weight class. I wouldn’t have had enough time to cut from 156/160 lbs down to 135 lbs (bantamweight). It definitely is a lot easier fighting at featherweight and I have a lot more punching power. However, due to the short notice of this fight camp, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up a high strike rate so I had to play the point game. I do plan on fighting their bantamweight champion because that is my natural weight class and who wouldn’t like another belt right? That seems to be the new trend nowadays.
Photo: Joseph Galindo
Life hasn’t changed too much for me ever since becoming champion. The only real difference is that more people call me champ haha. The emotions I had when I won the belt though were very special. This was my first time fighting for a title as a pro. However, as an amateur, I had 2 chances; one in MMA and another in Muay Thai. The amateur title fight in MMA, I lost due to a controversial split decision. It was definitely a tough loss because not only did the crowd thought I won the fight, but the promoters as well. The Muay Thai fight was a tournament so I had to win a total of 4 fights to win the belt in a span of 2 days. I sadly only got to fight once and I won the fight by unanimous decision, but broke and dislocated my left pinky toe during the second round. It was a rough time in my career because the year before that, I tore my LCL in my right leg. So when I won my CCW featherweight title, a glimpse of all my losses and hardships I went through prior appeared in my head and I just smiled knowing my sacrifices paid off.
At what age did you decide you wanted to become a martial artist and MMA fighter? What influenced you to do so?
No one guessed I was going to become a professional athlete, let alone a MMA fighter. To be honest, I didn’t even know. I didn’t go towards this career path until my first amateur MMA fight when I was 20. I TKO’ed my opponent in the first round and was like “wow, I can do this”. At the start of it all, I wanted to represent the Asian community because there weren’t many Asian athletes. Now, not only do I want to represent the Asian community, but the underdogs as well. I just want to eventually get to a point in my career where I can be a role model and give back to society and help the community that built me up. I feel like there are too many people with the ability to create change, yet aren’t doing so.
What was your family’s initial reaction to your career decision?
My family’s initial reaction was mixed haha. No surprise right being in an Asian household. My father is the typical Asian dad that is emotionless and wants me to be either a doctor or lawyer and go to a good college. My mom on the other hand is very unorthodox and unconventional. All she wants is for me is to be a good person. She didn’t push me as hard in school and gave me no pressure to excel academically. Just as long as I wasn’t causing trouble in school or with the law, she was fine. They never really supported me until they saw me actually knocking out competition. Then that’s when they realized I’m actually capable of making a difference and my fighting ability was legitimate.
How did you come up with the nickname “The Shadow”? What does it represent?
"The Shadow" nickname was actually given to me after my first Muay Thai fight. After the fight, some people wanted to get a photo with me and a spectator started describing to me my style. He said, “It's sort of like you’re there, but you’re not, you're kind of like a shadow he can’t catch.” To all those who know me know that I’m a huge comic book nerd and my favorite superhero is Batman. Now I’m never going to name myself Batman, so "The Shadow" was going to be the closest thing to that as I can get, so I took it. It was pretty cool to be honest with you. It was like a pilot episode of a superhero show that shows you his/her origin story. The Shadow nickname represents my ability to avoid strikes and how I can copy and as well as adapt my style to my opponents.
For just your second pro MMA bout back in May 2018, you were already signed to Bellator MMA. At this point in your career, how did it feel to make the early transition to such a major promotion?
It was a huge deal. It was very surreal because when I was in high school, I used to go home and watch Bellator on Spike TV when I ate dinner, and to end up fighting a few short years later on Bellator was insane. It felt more exciting than anything, almost no pressure. Everything was happening so fast and it felt like destiny, and I was on top of the world. I did not think I could lose and was invincible. I ended up losing and thinking to myself “wow, what just happened?”. Probably one of the greatest lessons I ever learned. Also, who gets to say they fought in Bellator for their second pro fight?
Having fought in both the United States and Asia, how would you compare the two scenes? What makes the Asian MMA community so unique?
Fighting in Asia is really different than here. Over there, the crowd is very quiet and super respectful. Over here, if the fight is sort of a stalemate, then people boo. People over there enjoy the art more in martial arts and the people in the states tend to just like the caveman mentality of two guys ‘rock em sock em robot’ each other. Also, the food and culture there is so different from here that I love fighting overseas and inspiring some of the up and comers to train in martial arts more.
Which MMA fighters were your favorites growing up, and who was the biggest influence on your current fighting style?
Growing up, my favorite fighter was Jose Aldo. I tried to copy his heavy leg kicks. But I later realized that I did not have his explosiveness, therefore I wasn’t able to pull off his style. But then as I got older, I was introduced to Frankie Edgar and he was killing a lot of the lightweights at the time. I was fascinated by his skillset and heart. However, I realized I didn’t really like getting hit and didn’t exactly have the heart of Frankie. I started seeing the WEC bantamweight champ winning over and over again. That was when I started picking up the style of Dominick Cruz. He is definitely the biggest influence on my current fighting style.
You recently acquired a sponsorship with famed boba shop, Sharetea Valley Fair. How did this come about, and where does your love for boba derive from?
So the sponsorship with Sharetea was very unique and interesting. This was during my second fight in Taiwan and third overall pro fight. I kept mentioning my love for boba in my interviews and I think that the owner just caught wind of it and messaged me shortly after on social media. It definitely has to be one of the coolest moments in my career. My love of boba came from when I was growing up, always going on boba runs with my family. That was my version of ice cream/dessert time with my dad. Every year, he would complain about boba prices getting more and more expensive and now I get to take him to Sharetea and get free drinks. One of my proudest moments haha.
Photo: Joseph Galindo
How did you first get in touch with Asians Never Die, and what was it like collaborating with the founder, Tai Tran?
How I got in touch with Asians Never Die was through my coach Steven Chao. He used to work with the owner Tai and his brother Tom in their old job. We just reached out and said we would like to rock his logo on our shorts and he was super supportive and was excited to sponsor his first athlete/fighter ever. We eventually kept in touch and started working together more closely and he has been one of my biggest supporters ever since. We are currently working on a couple of projects and the owner Tai and his brother Tom are super fun and creative. They are very passionate about the brand and movement of Asians Never Die, so be on the lookout for more collaborations between us. I hope to be able to wear their logo into all my future fights.
Outside of fight camps, what are your favorite hobbies? Give us a glimpse into your daily routine and lifestyle.
Outside of fight camps and training, I don’t like to work out too much just because of how intense my sessions are already. I like to go hiking or to the beach. I also have a lot of other obligations with my sponsors, so I do photoshoots and videos for them such as ILLEST, Dynasty and Sharetea etc… I do enjoy doing all the work with my sponsors though so it is not a chore to me. Also, watching movies and boba runs have to be one of the most satisfying things in my opinion to do haha. Bookstores are fun to go to. I love philosophy, so I like to read a lot and do a lot of pondering. I occasionally play the piano. Not very good just yet, but it isn’t something I focus a lot of my time on. Just something to do that gets my mind off things.
How does “everyday carry” fit into your everyday life? What are the 5 items that you must carry with you on a daily basis?
5 items I must carry with me on a daily basis are boba boba boba. Haha just kidding. I would have to say number one is my wallet. I can’t go anywhere without it. Second is my phone. I have to make calls and watch a lot of training footage on it. I have to carry a charger with me at all times due to how much I use my phone. During my training sessions, my phone has an app that is a timer and helps me with my sessions. Also, I use my notes app on my phone, but recently I started using a notebook because I like to write things down since I feel like I tend to remember it more. So notebook and charger definitely has to be one of my everyday carry. Last one would be headphones. I love listening to music and don’t want to be playing my fight videos out loud, especially when Joe Rogan starts screaming after a crazy finish happens.
If you could provide one message to an aspiring or up-and-coming fighter, what would it be?
If I could provide one message to an aspiring up-and-comer, artist, or even just a regular person, it would be to be able to maintain a positive mindset when you are going through hard times. It’s easy when things are going great to be able to say “hey, I can do anything”, but what about when you’re in a rough spot and can’t seem to find a way out? When you feel like you are in a dark place and no one can see or hear you. When the rain is heavy and the wind is blowing hard. That’s when you have to be patient and see the sun in the distant. That’s when you know which direction to go towards and walk into the bright sun and bask in its warmth. The ability to adapt to any situation and just be positive. It eventually becomes a habit and you get better at it. I would’ve liked to have known that when I was going through tough times. Hopefully it helps someone that needed to hear it.
Thank you so much for your time, Khai. We loved hearing your responses to all of these topics and gaining a better insight into the mind of an MMA fighter. We are looking forward to your upcoming fights and wishing you all the success in the world.
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