Friday, November 24 will see the PFL season come to a close at the 2023 PFL World Championship as the year’s million-dollar champions are crowned in Washington DC. Joining the championship bouts on the fight card will be Khai Wu, who chatted to Fighters Only ahead of his PFL debut, as he shared details about his martial arts journey, his goals for the future, and his friendship with Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg.
Congratulations on getting signed by the PFL. The chance to make your debut at the PFL World Championships is a huge opportunity. Tell us about how it came about, and your reaction to getting your debut on such a high-profile show.
First off thank you. Getting signed to the PFL was huge. All these years of fighting and finally getting recognition and signed to such a massive organization feels like a huge payoff. It came about last year when Loren Mack reached out to me and expressed that the PFL had some interest in me potentially fighting for them. Then there was a little negotiation phase and then I ended up getting the chance to fight on this huge card and took it.
How did you first get into martial arts, and then into MMA? Give us your MMA ‘origin story’.
I got into martial arts mainly because I got bullied when I was younger. Then my brother-in-law Dave Camarillo, who was pretty well known in the jiu-jitsu scene and who was also an MMA coach, got me to start training. At first, it was learning self-defense. But then as the years went on I got more competitive and really wanted to try to fight as an amateur. Once I got my first knockout in my first fight, I thought maybe I could make a living with this. So then I decided to turn pro in fighting.
Your fighting nickname is “The Shadow”. How did you get that moniker?
I was given the nickname “The Shadow” because after one of my fights someone in the stands came up to me. He said it was like I was there to hit him but not there to get hit. Kind of like a shadow. Once he said that, that night I decided to really think about it. Then I decided to make it my nickname.
Tell us about your martial arts/MMA heroes, and also, who inspires you?
In terms of martial arts/MMA heroes, there’s a lot of them. Muhammad Ali, Pernell Whitaker, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Lomachenko, Saenchai, GSP. Just to name a few. These were guys who all inspired my style. I try to take a few key things they all had and combine them into one. I would honestly say though, in terms of who inspires me the most, it would be my mother.
You’re taking on CFFC veteran Phil Caracappa in Washington DC. What do you make of his skills, where do you need to be most wary in terms of his skillset, and where do you feel you have the edge over him?
I think he’s a tough fight. He doesn’t have many finishes but that doesn’t mean he can’t finish a fight. He also can go the full three rounds so I need to be prepared for that. In terms of where I feel I have an edge over him it’s in the mindset. I feel like he will underestimate my skills like many of my opponents, then I’ll catch him off guard and capitalize.
You train alongside your brother-in-law, the inventor of “Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu”, Dave Camarillo. How much of an influence has he been on your career to date?
Obviously, he was the one who got me into martial arts so he was a huge influence. He is super successful and busy doing a lot of other things but when he gets the time, he does give me some advice and tips and tricks.
Another big name in your gym is Mark Zuckerberg, who I understand you train with. What’s he like to roll with, and how much does he love the sport of MMA? Do you know if he will be there to watch you make your PFL debut?
He was very strong when I first rolled with him. He absolutely loves MMA. It’s not a gimmick, he genuinely loves it and will chat about it with us from time to time. I’m sure he’s got way more important matters to attend to than watch my debut live. But I’m sure he will be watching on ESPN or something. Maybe one day when I fight for that million-dollar title he may attend.
I understand you and Mark have some good banter on the mats, with dad jokes flying around between rolls. Tell us a bit about that.
Haha! My type of jokes are bad in the sense that they are super cheesy. The jokes I make I don’t even remember them, they just kind of come off naturally. Also, Mark really is competitive so we get some good challenges and funny back and forth from time to time. Kind of like a “you had to be there” type moment.
All that talk about Mark and Elon fighting in an MMA bout. Do you think that was ever a serious consideration? And if it was, how do you think it would have gone?
I want to put that to rest and refer back to Mark’s last thread about it. He is moving on and looking to do something more serious perhaps. I think it was serious until Elon started saying some outlandish things. I’m not going to say how the fight would have gone, ’cause it’s not happening anymore, but I’m backing my guy Mark all day.
Your upcoming fight is obviously a huge opportunity, and it could be the start of something really special for you. What are your goals in MMA?
Honestly, I’m not sure what my goals are. I’ve done so many things I never thought I’d get to do. One thing I’ve learned is that plans change very quickly so you have to be adaptable. I just know I’m going to do my very best to live up to my potential and see where that takes me. I definitely think I have a solid career ahead of me. I just need to keep my head on straight, listen to the right people, and stay humble.
Sticking to the theme of career goals, are there any specific places you’d like to fight, for example, would fighting one day in Taiwan be a dream opportunity for you?
I would love to fight in Vegas one day. Also would like to help start a PFL Asia and then maybe headline a show out there. Taiwan would definitely be a market to attack because it is untapped and I have a decent fanbase out there. Very interested in that conversation.
For those fans tuning in to the PFL World Championships and seeing you in action for the first time, what can they expect from a Khai Wu fight?
I think they can expect art. I like to fight my fight which is more based off IQ. Some art doesn’t get appreciated by all, but I do know it’s unique. I’m constantly evolving so I’m hoping people will just have fun when they watch me.
Finally, give us a prediction for your fight with Caracappa on November 24.
I think a finish of some sort will take place. I’ve been working on many dimensions in the striking realm. But also I think my grappling is very underrated and I’m sure he will be testing it. He might find himself in a tight spot though. I’m excited to showcase the skills and training I’ve been working on. Hope everyone can tune in.
Photos: @khaiwu / Instagram