More than just Mark Zuckerberg’s training partner: Khai Wu embraces unexpected path
Khai Wu has had a unique journey through mixed martial arts (MMA) thus far.
At age 28, the Tracy, California-born Wu has had a plethora of experiences that most fighters never will. The most intriguing or eye-catching of the past year has been his tie with one of the world’s richest men, Mark Zuckerberg.
Wu (7-4) is a key part of his gym, Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu in Pleasanton, California, where he trains and coaches. One day, Zuckerberg contacted the gym and came to train, where Wu admittedly wasn’t even too knowledgeable about who Zuckerberg was and expected it to be a one-time thing. Ultimately, the Facebook founder wanted to keep learning MMA after working with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) Bantamweight prospect and it’s led “The Shadow” to also be known as “Zuckerberg’s training partner.”
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing because it got a lot more eyes on me and two, a lot of people are actually like, ‘Well, that’s not Zuckerberg’s training partner. That’s the ‘Shadow,’’ They know me as that,” Wu told MMA Mania. “To those people, I say thank you, appreciate them being there from the beginning and I always love building. So it’s really cool.
“Back then, when I was looking for fights, it was tough,” he continued. “It was tough for me to find fights, because not just COVID, but also it’s like, risk vs. reward. Who wants to fight me, I don’t have a huge name. I had a four-fight win streak. I was 6-2 at the time but now I feel like John Wick like I have an open contract on my back and everyone wants to fight me all the sudden. I had so many people reached out to me, they’re like, ‘Hey, tell PFL to sign me so I can fight you.’ I don’t know that that’s how that works, right? It’s just kind of funny now a lot of people that used to, you know, maybe turn my fight down are coming back around. So it’s kind of exciting and there’s always pros and cons to everything but if you understand how to leverage it to your favor, then you know, I think you could use it to your advantage.”
A martial arts career was never in the cards for Wu. The desire to train stemmed from Wu’s connection with Dave Camarillo, who was dating his sister at the time and Wu has known him since he was two years old. Dabbling in and out of jiu-jitsu until about age nine, Wu hung out at the famous American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) with some of the gym’s all-time elites like Cain Velasquez, Josh Thomson, and Josh Koscheck. Everything snowballed from there after eventually taking a fight just for fun.
While still working his way to stardom overall in MMA, Wu has established a solid fanbase in Taiwan, where he’s fought most of his career. Punching and kicking people for a living and being a celebrity of any sort wasn’t ever an expectation or care in mind, but “The Shadow” is happy to have given his parents something to be proud of.
“I wouldn’t say it’s super popular in Taiwan, specifically, because that’s mainly where I fought out of, but as I — it’s really cool, man,” Wu said of MMA in Taiwan. “I was kind of a nobody and I was just always visiting Taiwan.
“I lived there for like, three years when I was third grade to fifth grade,” he added. “Then I’d go back every year, twice a year, sometimes, you know. Then next thing you know, I’m fighting in an arena that my friends in when I was younger people used to sneak out to go watch concerts and all stuff and I’m like, fighting there now. Then I win and then I get to go back because they keep inviting me and I started building a fan base. After one of my fights, I went to the restroom just because I was like, you know, the fights over, I’m happy. Next thing you know, there’s a line that starts building and I’m like, shocked. I’m like, ‘Wait, you want a photo?’ and this guy’s like, ‘I want a photo!’ I’m like, ‘No way.’ It was ecstatic.”
Wu makes his PFL debut against Phil Caracappa at the 2023 PFL Championship in Washington D.C. on Nov. 24, 2023.
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