‘I Expect Him To Come Out And Take My Head Off’: Meet James Yang, The ONE Championship Debutant Ready For War

The beginning of James Yang’s path to mixed martial arts starts with his grandma throwing her shoes to fend off two male attackers.

The unidentified men were following four-year-old Yang, his cousins and grandma as they walked on a school track field near their home in Seattle. The men began throwing stuff and cursing at young Yang and his family, but his grandma defended them, fighting them off with her shoes, Yang said.

“I just remember as a kid back then [I thought] ‘I wish I was older to protect them,’” Yang added. “That kind of stuck with me.”

Now, nearly 28 years later, Yang will debut his Pankration and kung fu fighting style with ONE Championship against Filipino fighter Roel Rosauro at ONE: Revolution in a featherweight bout in Singapore on Friday, September 24.


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Yang caught up with FIGHT SPORTS and said he isn’t underestimating Rosauro and plans to come out in his debut with full force.

“I expect him to come out and take my head off,” he laughed. “I’m looking to do the same thing.”

Roasauro is eyeing his second win in ONE Championship. He is coming off a win against Yohan Mulia Legowo after two losses to Li Kai Wen and Sunoto Peringkat.

Though Yang, 32, is now debuting in ONE this week, he has amassed a 7-0 amateur MMA record.

Yang used to watch traditional Chinese lion dancing with his grandmother and learned self-defense from his father, but the fighter’s journey officially began when he left his hometown in Seattle, Washington at 17 years old and forged a three-year stint at Shaolin temple in China where he learned kung fu.

When Yang returned, he began working regular day-to-day jobs, but still taught Wushu martial arts on the side. He told FIGHT SPORTS he soon felt like he began to “plateau” in his MMA career, and was looking for more.

Then came his discovery of the hybrid style of mixed martial arts at AMC Kickboxing & Pankration in Washington. Here, he met former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson who has now been in his corner ever since.

“I’ve been fighting with them and competing with them, and now I’m finally here,” he said. “It’s been an epic journey [with Johnson]. I’ve been lucky enough to be in his corner and he’s been in my corner for all my amateur fights… I think it only works out because we have great chemistry.”


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Yang said Johnson pushes him to do better and educates him on nutrition and recovery, but also reminds him to keep a balance for personal time like with family and friends.

“For me, after a fight, I’m back in the gym right away, but he’s the kind of guy who’s like ‘You know what man, take a few weeks off,’” Yang laughed. “[To] relax, enjoy yourself and heal up.”

Days leading up to his Friday debut, Yang said he’ll be eating meals like rice and chicken and training to some classic hip-hop and R&B music.

The Washington native said MMA means everything to him and that “love” is an understatement. He told FIGHT SPORTS he’s in the competition for one thing – to become world champion.

“That’s it,” he smiled. “You don’t get in this sport or anything else.”

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