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Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg’s strength a surprise for his MMA trainer

Khai Wu (right) with Mark Zuckerberg (centre) and Zuckerberg's coach Dave Camarillo. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KHAI WU

SINGAPORE – Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the world’s largest social media platform, is a name synonymous with coding, algorithms and virtual connections. Standing at 1.71m, the tech billionaire is not one’s idea of a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

But Zuckerberg’s trainer and sparring partner Khai Wu said there is much more to the 39-year-old Silicon Valley icon than meets the eye.

Wu, 28, who signed with MMA outfit Professional Fighters League (PFL) in June, told The Straits Times: “One thing that surprised me right off the bat was his strength. He is around my size and he had me going, ‘Gosh, he is very, very strong’. It was ridiculous. I’ve trained with a lot of fighters, but the amount of strength that he (Zuckerberg) has surprised me.”

In an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in late 2022, Zuckerberg said he developed an interest in various sports, including mixed martial arts, during the Covid-19 pandemic. He then found his way to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo veteran Dave Camarillo’s gym, Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu, where he met Wu.

Zuckerberg said in the podcast: “I really like watching UFC… but I also like doing the sport... MMA is like the perfect thing. Because it’s like, if you stop paying attention for one second, you’re gonna end up on the bottom.”

In September 2022, Zuckerberg posted a video on Instagram in which he sparred with Wu in what was the first glimpse of him fighting.

While Wu was cagey about details on his arrangement with Zuckerberg, he said he still trains with the billionaire up to four times a week, depending on the Meta co-founder and chief executive officer’s schedule.

Wu said: “Mark is such an interesting individual because of how he trains as much as he does... You’ve got to be a very unique individual to be able to do that. It is motivational and inspiring. He has a company like Meta to run and then he’s learning martial arts when he doesn’t have to.”

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In May, Zuckerberg shared that he snagged gold and silver medals in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament. Two months later, he announced that he was promoted to blue belt.

But one fight that had many intrigued, was a potential battle with fellow tech billionaire Elon Musk, who had challenged Zuckerberg to a “cage match” in June. But after weeks of trading barbs on their competing social networks — Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter) and Meta’s Threads, Zuckerberg called off the fight in August.

“I think we can all agree Elon isn’t serious and it’s time to move on,” Zuckerberg said in a Threads post. “If Elon ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me.”

Wu, however, believes “the fight is not going to happen”.

He added: “I don’t think Elon realised that it was serious. He (Zuckerberg) wants to fight someone who is professional and who will actually show up with no gimmicks... and someone that’s willing to cut weight and actually meet in a cage without all the stipulations.

“I’m with Mark, if he wants to move on to a different opponent and fight them. We’ll get him ready.”

In the meantime, Wu is preparing for his PFL debut. Nicknamed “The Shadow”, he will be competing against Phil Caracappa in the 2023 PFL World Championship on Nov 24.

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Formed in 2018, the New York-based promotion is the only league in MMA with a sports-season format, where individual fighters compete in regular season, play-offs, and championships each year.

Loren Mack, PFL’s senior vice president said that Wu – who was born to Taiwanese parents and was raised in the United States – is “undoubtedly emerging as a rising Asian American star in the world of MMA”.

He added: “I firmly believe in Khai’s potential, and Khai definitely has what it takes to captivate the Asian audience when we further expand into the region.”