Dae Hwan Kim wasn’t on the radar of many fight fans until the UFC and ONE FC became embroiled in a tussle for his services last year. The Asian promotion got there first and signed the undefeated Korean prospect to a multi-fight contract.
There were still question marks over Kim, who had put in a couple of credible performances in Japan, but was basically unknown outside of Korea. He answered them emphatically with a first-round submission win over Kevin Belingon at ONE FC: War of Nations, which leaves the 10-0-1 bantamweight on the verge of a title shot. He is hoping to face current champion Bibiano Fernandes when the chance for a title shot comes his way.
Fernandes has to first overcome the not inconsiderable challenge posed by Masakatsu Ueda, but Kim is confident that the Brazilian will prevail in Manila on May 2.
“Ueda is one of the best bantamweight fighters in the world, but I think Fernandes can keep his title. Fernandes is very famous and I want to take away his title from him,” he said.
Kim took on Vietnamese Australian bantamweight Thanh Vu at ONE FC: Moment of Truth and won by second-round rear naked choke after a back-and-forth war in which both fighters had their moments.
He faced a serious step up when he took on Belingon, who has already established himself as one of top fighters in the division at the weight, and believes that having swiftly submitted the Filipino, he is capable of causing another upset against Fernandes.
“I’m improving rapidly. After each bout, I’m becoming stronger and stronger, and if I am able to fight against a strong opponent like Fernandes, I will really focus on my training and when I go on the cage, the title will be mine at once,” he said.
Kim accepts that Fernandes looks unbeatable after seven straight wins, but the Korean believes he could be the man to shatter this aura of invincibility.
“In MMA anything can happen and you can see more upsets compared to any other sports. The possibility for any fighter to defeat Fernandes is very low, but I believe I am the one fighter who can do that. I am a sincere Christian and God gives me limitless power, so I might fail sometimes but there is nothing impossible,” he said.
Belingon secured a tight headlock in the opening round against Kim, but instead of trying to sink his hooks in and transition to a rear naked choke, he tried to finish the fight with a bulldog type choke.
It looked like the Korean might be in trouble, but Kim says he never even contemplated tapping.
“He used all of his power when doing that headlock and I felt strong pressure, but I had never thought about tapping and I could feel that he was getting tired,” he said.
There is no word yet from ONE FC officials as to whether Kim’s performance against Vu and Belingon will see him fast-tracked to a title shot, but with back-to-back submission wins and one of the best records of any fighter in the promotion, the 27-year-old must be close.
Kim is hoping to get a title shot before the end of the year, but says he is staying in shape just on the off chance an opportunity arises sooner.
“I want to have a title fight sometime between August and October, but if either Fernandes or Ueda gets injured I am ready to fight for the title in Manila on May 2,” he said.
With Fransino Tirta, Yusup Saadulaev, Koetsu Okazaki, Xian Ji, and Yohan Mulia Legowo all on ONE FC’s bantamweight roster, Kim might have to face at least one more contender before being offered as shot at the belt, but he knows exactly what his dream fight would be.
“Everybody wants to fight in their own countries and my dream in ONE FC is to have a bantamweight title match against Fernandes in Korea and defeat him.”
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