Balajin will have been watching UFC 261 with interest. Watching three of his compatriots lose and wondering how he would fare against the lightweights on the roster.

The Chinese fighter is riding a 12 fight winning streak. He is hoping a 19-1 record will catch the eye of the UFC matchmakers and already has his sights set on a top 15 spot at 155lbs,

“My favorite fighter is Khabib (Nurmagomedov) and my goal with MMA is to get into the UFC, then break into the top 15.”

Balajin had an excellent 2020 winning five fights out of five last year. It culminated in a lightweight title shot for local promotion JCK but his Tajik opponent was riding a 15 fight winning streak and had beaten some of China’s best lightweights.

Balajin prevailed by way of split decision and describes it as his ‘toughest fight’,

“My toughest match was going three rounds against Aziz Khaydarov from Tajikistan last December and my biggest achievement so far was when I became the JCK lightweight champion that night,” he said.

Veteran opponents

While 2020 went extremely well for Balajin it didn’t exactly go according to plan. He had hoped to train in the US but saw those plans nixed by the pandemic,

“The pandemic impacted my plans to train abroad. I had planned to train in the United States last year, but this became much more logistically difficult with Covid.”

Training in China doesn’t seem to have done him any harm. He has put together a very impressive record that includes wins over WEC veteran Mushin Corbbrey and Pride veteran Charles Bennett.

Although he has only been training MMA since 2017 Balajin’s martial arts journey began nearly 15 years ago,

“I’ve been training in freestyle wrestling since 2007, and then began training in MMA in 2016. I really like MMA and I saw it as a way to make a living.”

Rising star

Balajin now trains at one of China’s most successful teams alongside fighters who have already gone on to enjoy success on the international stage,

“I went to Qingdao to meet the coach of the Xinjiang Fight Club and that’s how I initially got into MMA. My coach is Liu Jinwen and my teammates include Wang Shuo and Xie Wei.”

Both Shuo and Wei are on the ONE Championship roster and perhaps that could be an option for Balajin if his UFC dreams don’t transpire. A stellar record and a winning streak that has lasted nearly four years should make this Chinese fighter an attractive option for any promoter and it is a name we can expect to hear more of in 2021.