‘Korean Zombie’ rises to UFC title bout

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‘Korean Zombie’ rises to UFC title bout


Jung Chan-sung

It’s hard to pick mixed martial arts fighter Jung Chan-sung out of a crowd. But the 176-centimeter-tall (5 foot, 9 inch), friendly-faced Jung is one of the most dangerous men in the octagon. He is so vicious in the cage that he has earned the nickname “The Korean Zombie.”

The 25-year-old is set to become the first Korean to compete in an Ultimate Fighting Championship title match. After defeating Dustin Poirier with a D’Arce choke last month, Jung called out current featherweight champion Aldo of Brazil to be his next opponent.

Soon after the victory, UFC President Dana White approved Jung’s request. Since Jose Aldo is scheduled to fight Erik Koch at on July 21, the matchup will not happen soon. But if everything goes as planned, Jung will have a shot at the featherweight championship belt later this year or in early 2013.

The Korean Zombie earned his name for his constant aggression and advances, even in the face of heavy blows. On Dec. 10, Jung knocked out Mark Hominick in just 7 seconds, tying a UFC record.

But Jung, whose MMA record is 13-3, said he won’t be satisfied until he wins the title belt. In an interview with Ilgan Sports, the JoongAng Ilbo’s sports daily, the Korean Top Team fighter, who previously played in World Extreme Cagefighting, Sengoku and DEEP, said he is ready for the challenge.

Q. Do people tell you that you look like a normal guy on the streets?

A. When I get bored, I sometimes ride scooters and drive around the Han River. Since the weather’s getting warmer, there are many people outside, but it seems like no one recognizes me. If my face looked rough, maybe people would recognize me, but you know I’m too ordinary looking. In fact, on days like this when I don’t have a match, I sometimes forget that I’m a MMA fighter [laughs].

Four Asians, all Japanese, have competed for the UFC title belt, but all failed. You said the reason they failed was their lack of fighting spirit. Is that true?

Technique-wise, Japan is better than the United States. I said this to the Japanese media, but Japanese people seem to back down against people who are superior to them. I think that culture doesn’t seem to work well in the MMA world. The reason why Korea is getting good results despite poor surroundings is that we have a strong fighting spirit.

Some people says Asians lack power and finesse compared to Western fighters. Do you think that a fighting spirit can overcome these kinds of limits, if they exist?

Well, not all of them, but we can definitely overcome some of it. It all depends on how you do it. Our nation’s population is under 50 million, but already three are playing in the UFC. I don’t think that number is small. It doesn’t make sense to me to say that Western people are born with more power than Asians.

Do you remember your MMA debut? It was right about this time five year ago.

Of course. In an event called the “Super Sambo Festival” I met Lee Hyeong-geol. I met him twice in [Brazilian] jiujitsu tournaments but lost both times. I was surprised that he didn’t remember me. Then again, losers always remember people who beat them. But in the MMA, I also met him twice and won both matches.

Recently, Alistair Overeem’s heavyweight title bout was cancelled because he failed a doping test. What do you think about the use of drugs in the sport?

When I go to overseas, I heard rumors that fighters were taking drugs, but among Korean fighters, I have never seen or heard that they are on drugs. If doping tests are not strict, we are in an unfavorable position despite putting in the same effort. There should be stricter drug tests - more tightly and frequently conducted.

When do you want to get married?

If I can, I want to right now because then I can focus on work. I don’t agree that you have to enjoy yourself when you are young. My goal is to live happily with a good wife and also with my son or daughter.

I look at a woman’s personality. Even if she is beautiful, I try not to get close when she has an abrasive style. Of course, since I’m a man, I like a beautiful woman. But she doesn’t need to be too fancy. I just don’t want her to be fat. To me, looking fat says you’re not managing yourself.

These days I don’t know a woman who I want to marry. Maybe I’m too picky.

You were poor and disappointed after consecutive defeats, but now you’ve earned a championship bout. What do you want to say to young people who are facing tough challenges in society?

Luckily, mixed martial arts fighting was the thing that I’ve always liked and also the work that I can do well. Even if it’s tough, you need to do the work that you like. If you keep at it, even if you do not succeed, you will find another way that goes well. I’ve seen many cases of that in my surroundings. The other door will open when you go as far as you can.

By Won Ho-yeon, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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