by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Earlier this month it took just under five minutes for Denis Kang to dispatch tough MMA vet Mark Weir at Bushido 10. It was a triumphant return for one of the company’s most promising fighters after having spent the past six months away from the promotion to recover from injury.
Upon arriving home and already getting back into his training routine Kang spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss the fight, his team, and what he hopes 2006 will bring.
“It was great,” said Denis of his win over Weir. “I hadn’t fought in a long time, but the training went great for this (fight). The weight cut was great; I peaked right on time for it, so everything was good. The fight went as planned, except for the beginning where I got taken down, other than that everything went well. So all in all I’m happy with my performance.”
Kang, who had competed in December in an AFC event in Florida, feels this fight was very important for helping set the tone for what he hopes will be a big year for him.
“This was my first big, first real test, and I felt like this fight would set the pace for the rest of the fights I have this year,” explained Denis. “I felt it was going to raise the bar and show me the rest of the things I want to work on, because I really want to compete in the GP.”
Kang continued, “I think the one thing that separates me from a lot of people is that I’m constantly seeking improvement in my training and my skills. I think I showed that in this fight where I was using more effective ground ‘n pounding, something I hadn’t used too much in previous fights. In my next fight I think you’ll see something you haven’t seen before from me probably.”
A big part of Denis’ continued evolution as a fighter has stemmed with his recent involvement with the American Top Team. As Kang explained, not only has the team’s atmosphere been influential to him, but also the success of the other fighters involved with the ATT.
“One thing about ATT is that we have really strong team spirit,” said Denis. “We’ve got people from all different countries, people from all over the world but when we get together to fight we’re one, we’re a team, and it showed that night. There was just a strong union and a very strong vibe, like I felt like I wasn’t going in there alone. Everybody knew how big Marcus’ (Aurelio) fight was and so we got together and really pushed hard with the motivation and being there for him and one another.”
Next up for Kang appears to be a birth in Pride’s 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix. While it will be Denis’ first tournament appearance for Pride, he’s familiar with the format having won the 2004 Spirit MC Grand Prix.
“With Pride’s GP set-up it’s usually two events of single fights then one event of two fights in one night, so fighting more than once in a night I’ve done it before,” commented Kang. “The main thing is you’ve got to stay injury free, sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t, but I’ve done it before so I know what to expect. There’s no easy fights in this weight class in Pride, any fight you get is going to be a hard one.”
As for who hopes to face in the GP, Denis wants one faction in particular, but is not opposed to facing anyone in the tournament, including friends.
“I’d like to fight (Ryo) Chonan, (Akihiro) Gono, or any other Japanese fighter,” said Kang. “Paulo (Filho) or Murilo Bustamante, I’m friends with them but I realize I will probably meet one of them in the tournament, so inside the ring it’s business, outside the rings we can be friends [laughs]. Phil Baroni and I hang out backstage with each other, but like I said, inside the ring it’s business. I think with our styles he (Baroni) and I could put on a great fight.”
Denis added, “The tournament is really what I’m focusing on. I missed some time last year, so this year is going to be my year. I’m really training hard for it, I’m motivated and I’m confident. I think whatever happens in the tournament will better my skill. You know winning championships and tournaments is all good but what I’m fighting for is to make myself a better fighter and athlete. Whatever happens in the fight I always look at it positively and what I gained from it, and I’ve got a lot to gain in joining the tournament.”
Kang finished out the conversation by wanting to thank everyone that’s supported him. “I want to tell the fans that they’re a huge part of my motivation when I train. I don’t want to let the people that support me down because I really feel their support. I want to thank the ATT, my Jiu-Jitsu coach in Vancouver – Marcus Soares, and everybody in Korea.”
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