Turns out he wasn't wrong!
Katsuhiro Harada, director of the TEKKEN Project, shared details on why Kuma was introduced to the Tekken franchise. On X (ex-Twitter), Harada said that he "simply thought it would be fun. Isn't it interesting that video games allow you to do things that are hard to do in real life?"
Harada also mentioned that "a long time ago, there used to be a certain number of people who wanted to face a bear at least once as a martial artist." That is unsurprising, considering that bears were a part of professional wrestling for a long time. In the 19th century, there were even boxing matches between humans and bears. Also, one of the MMA legends, Khabib Nurmagomedov, wrestled with a cub as a child.
Bear is a strong, massive animal and a symbol of power, so Harada's logic makes total sense. We can say that Kuma and Panda are two iconic characters in the Tekken franchise. Thanks, Harada!