by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Pride Fighting Championships was bought by Zuffa many of the fighters under their umbrella moved into the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but many others chose to move on to different promotions instead. One of those fighters, Denis Kang, left for a different option, but starting in Ireland at UFC 93 he will finally get his chance to compete in the world famous Octagon for the first time.
A longtime member of the American Top Team, Kang spent the last two-plus years fighting in various organizations all over the world, but when the UFC came calling after his latest free agency stint, he decided he wanted to make the move.
“They made me a pretty lucrative offer that I really couldn’t ignore, and a lot of it too had to do with you’ve seen most of the tough fighters in the country gravitating now towards the UFC,” Kang told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I wanted to be a part of that elite group, if you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man, so I’ve got to go in there and beat the men.”
Following a devastating knockout of former UFC fighter, Marvin Eastman, in Canada last October, Kang got the call and told the promotion that he’d be ready to fight again as early as January. It didn’t take UFC matchmaker Joe Silva very long to find a fit for Kang, which was exactly what he was hoping for.
“I’m the kind of fighter I like to fight every two or three months if I can,” commented Kang. “I feel that’s when I’m at my best, I stay sharp, it’s easier to cut weight, and you’re fit and things like that.”
Fighting regularly is a part of what Kang likes to do. Not knowing who he was fighting was a problem Kang says he dealt with regularly when dealing with promotions like K-1 Hero’s or Dream, which changed opponents sometimes within days of the scheduled bout.
Kang admits that he has very much enjoyed having a full training camp with one opponent in mind, but working with a great number of UFC fighters already has helped him prepare for his debut this month.
“It’s not that different. The only thing I’m adding now is more emphasis on cage work, working with and against the fence, but it’s not really different,” said Kang. “I’m doing the 5 minute rounds as well. But actually before that, the whole time I’ve been in Montreal I’ve been helping Georges (St. Pierre) get ready for his fight and he’s fighting in the UFC, so I’ve had to get used to the 5 x 5 (minute rounds). That’s all he fights.”
While in Montreal, Kang has worked alongside St. Pierre as well as other top stars such as Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, David Loiseau and many others. The strategy for Kang now is to prepare for his opponent, Alan Belcher, a veteran of seven fights in the UFC.
“I thought it was a good fight,” Kang said about being offered to fight Belcher. “He’s a young, cocky kid, coming off a win over (Ed) Herman, he’s got a flashy Muay Thai style, and you can tell he’s improving his wrestling and his grappling, so I think it’s good. It’s a competitive fight.”
With the first match-up only days away, Kang gave his thoughts on a growing middleweight division, with current champion, Anderson Silva, sitting on the king’s throne.
“There’s a lot of guys,” Kang stated about the middleweight division. “There’s Thales Leites, he’s going to fight really soon, Demian Maia’s just tearing it up, there’s Michael Bisping who’s on a good roll as well. I don’t know if Henderson and Franklin are still going to fight at middleweight, but if they do those guys are a threat to be reckoned with for sure. I’m not looking past Belcher that’s for sure.”
Kang has been working in Montreal for several months to get ready for the fight, but still remains loyal to the American Top Team based out of Florida. Training in Montreal in wintertime, he also misses something else.
“I miss them,” Kang said about his team.
“I miss the Florida sun,” he said with a laugh.