Chan Sung Jung’s date with destiny may have arrived unexpectedly, but when an opportunity to take on Jose Aldo arose, the Korean Zombie didn’t hesitate. He gladly accepted the short notice offer of a title shot in the UFC 163 main event.
He had initially been set to take on Ricardo Lamas at UFC 162 on July 6, but an injury to Aldo’s original challenger, Anthony Pettis, left matchmakers scrambling for a replacement opponent for the Aug. 3 bout. The 26-year-old seized the moment.
“It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to fight for a title in the UFC, so I’m thrilled that I got the call. Timing on these things isn’t something that you can control, so you have to ‘roll with the punches’ so to speak,” Jung told MMAWeekly.com.
Turning down the title shot was never an option for the Korean, but he is under no illusions as to the size of the task ahead of him. He readily admits that he will be the underdog against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
“Aldo is close to perfect as a fighter and I realize that I have shortcomings in my game,” he said. “On paper it may not look like a good fight, but in MMA things happen that you can’t predict on paper. I think the difference may come down to the mental game.”
The 2011 twister that finished Leonard Garcia instantly secured Jung a reputation as a submission specialist and eight of his 13 wins have come that way. On paper, his best chance to beat the Brazilian Muay Thai specialist is on the ground, but the Korean Zombie has a black belt in Taekwondo, a background in kickboxing, and doesn’t accept that he is outmatched in the stand-up department.
“If there’s an opportunity for a takedown, I’ll take advantage of it, but I’m very confident in my striking. So I don’t mind if the fight stays standing.”
After a disappointing start to his American career, with back-to-back WEC losses, Jung has turned things around. He is riding an impressive three-fight UFC winning streak, which, as well as the famous Twister win over Garcia, has seen him stop Mark Hominick with strikes in just seven seconds at UFC 140 and put Dustin Poirier to sleep with a fourth-round Brabo choke at UFC on Fuel TV 3.
By beating two of the top featherweights in the world, as well as avenging the controversial defeat at the hands of Garcia, which marred his WEC debut, Jung moved close to contention for a fight with Aldo but was frustrated when Pettis was allowed to drop down a division and cut to the head of the line.
Having already made it abundantly clear he wanted to fight Aldo, the 13-3 Korean was never going to do what Hatsu Hioki famously did and turn down a featherweight title shot. The only question in his mind when he got the call was whether he was the victim of a hoax or not.
“It’s been my dream to fight Aldo for the championship for several years now, so when I got the news, I didn’t believe it. I was shocked. I thought that my manager was playing a joke on me until it was announced by the UFC,” he said.
Jung has taken home more than his fair share of bonuses, meaning that his relatively brief stint in the UFC, only three fights to date, has been extremely lucrative. With an impending title shot and a propensity for putting on entertaining fights, his future on the featherweight roster looks safe, but he also feels the time has come to start making moves outside of the Octagon.
This led him to take the difficult decision to leave Korean Top Team behind in order to set up his own Korean Zombie camp earlier this year; meaning that, as well as being a fighter he is also now a gym owner and a coach.
“I just felt that it was time for me to do something on my own,” he stated. “The career of a fighter can be short, so I wanted to take advantage of the timing.”
The Korean Zombie team has already tasted success with Yun Jun Lee scoring a surprise decision win over Japanese veteran Takafumi Otsaka at Road FC 12 last month and Jung says he is enjoying his new role.
“I’ve learned a lot being a ‘head coach’ but more than anything I’m happy for Yun Jun. It was a very big win for him and I’m glad that I could be a part of it.”
While Jung is currently the only Korean in the UFC’s 145-pound division, he is likely to be joined by Doo Ho Choi, who currently fights for Deep, has an 11-1 record, and is reportedly on the verge of securing a contract that will see him further swell the Zuffa ranks.
The two have sparred together extensively and Jung is believes his occasional training partner has the potential to enjoy immediate UFC success.
“I think he could come into the UFC and make an impact immediately. I hope that he gets signed soon!”
Jung probably won’t be the sole Korean representative on the featherweight roster for too much longer, but a win over Aldo in Rio de Janeiro would ensure he goes down in sporting history as the first fighter from his continent, let alone his country, to win a UFC title.
It’s a monumental opportunity for the Korean Zombie, but right now, Jung isn’t worrying about his long term legacy because he knows he has enough on his plate taking on one of the best featherweights of all time in front of 15,000 or so fervent home country fans in Brazil.
“I’m trying not to think about this fight in regards to that stuff right now. First and foremost, it’s my dream coming true, so I’m focusing on the fight right now.”