UFC featherweight Chan Sung Jung, aka "The Korean Zombie," has once again endeared himself to fight fans with an electric performance. Jung battled with Dustin Poirier in the main event of and registered a career-defining victory with a 4th-round D'arce choke. The UFC showed their appreciation for Jung's bravado by awarding him both the "Fight of the Night" and "Submission of the Night" bonus checks, forking over an extra $80,000 in the process. Additionally, 3the win grants Jung a crack at the featherweight championship and he vaulted up to the #5-spot in the May edition of the Consensus World MMA rankings.
So ... it was a pretty good night for him.
Through the wonders of modern technology, I caught up with "The Korean Zombie" to answer a few questions from myself and the staff. Topics include his showcase performance against Poirier, his condition leading into the fight, his evolution as an MMA fighter and, of course, a potential bout with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who defends his title against Erik Koch next month at UFC 149.
Dallas Winston: Can you expand on some of your health concerns going into the Poirier fight?
Chan Sung Jung: Now that the fight is over, I can come out and say that my injuries were/are pretty bad. I've been struggling with a bum knee for quite a while now. Actually, it been okay for most of the camp, but started to really hurt near the end of the camp and approaching the fight. Then there's my shoulder. My shoulder had been giving me problems for months now and keeping from doing pulling exercises, pull-ups, chin-ups, even pushups.
I finally had an MRI done and the doctor's verdict is that I have a tear in my rotator cuff. He recommended immediate surgery, but I wasn't about to let some skinny-necked doctors stand between me and my goal, so I played it down and trained through the pain.
If you look at pictures of me before my American fights, you'll see a pretty dramatic change in my physical build; musculature, if you will. However, heading into the Poirier fight, I had lost quite a bit of the mass that I had been building throughout those previous fights. My physical peak was probably at the Hominick match.
Continued after the jump.After that, my nagging knee injury started to rear its ugly head again, but this time it had company in a rotator cuff tear. It was the rotator cuff tear that was the culprit to my loss of muscle and mass. It definitely put a crimp in my training style, because I didn't get to do a lot of things I wanted to do. And the things that I did do, I didn't do them to the degree that I would have liked to.
Regardless, we come to fight -- so I manned up and kept training for Poirier, and we saw how that turned out.
(Jung vs. Poirier Highlight Video via Fox Sports)
Dallas Winston: How long do you expect to be out of action?
Chan Sung Jung: I'm going to see the doc later today, so I should have a better idea of what's going on. Even a couple of months before the Poirier fight, the doctors urged me to operate on the tear in my rotator cuff, but I wasn't about to pull out of that big of a fight for me -- especially on a card that had 2 Koreans on it for the first time, a Korean in the main event for the first time and a title-contender eliminator.
I would have showed up with one leg, dragging myself into the Octagon by my chin if I had to. I'm not sure about the prognosis right now, as I'll be going to the doctor tomorrow.
Ben Thapa: The second round was perhaps one of the most memorable I've ever seen. Flying knees, great uppercuts, a counter-roll into mount, armbar, triangle, armbar, triangle and so on. Was it frustrating to not get the finish after throwing so much at Poirier? What were your thoughts after that sequence?
Chan Sung Jung: I wouldn't say it was frustrating. After all, this is mixed martial arts, so you never really know what's going to happen from one moment to the next. I will say that after all of those transitions on the ground, I was pretty tired. There were a couple of times when I really thought I had a submission locked in on him and I was trying to muscle it to get the finish, but Dustin got saved by the bell at the end of the 2nd. A few more seconds and I think I would have had him.
Ben Thapa: Did you learn something from the Poirier fight about your ability or determination? Did you surprise yourself or is this level of performance one you've always known you could reach?
Chan Sung Jung: I learned a lot. I was able to prove to myself that all of the things I do in practice can work in a real fight. I'm not surprised that I performed well, as I always expect the best of myself. Most of the stuff that I got to show off in the Poirier fight I was ready to showcase in the Hominick fight, but that one didn't last long enough.
Dallas Winston: Can you explain how you've constructed your submission grappling game?
Chan Sung Jung: When I first started I would just roll around with older white belts. They didn't know much, but they knew more than me, so it was a start. I've competed in a couple of Jiu-Jitsu tournaments in Korea and placed like 2nd or 3rd. I did it mostly for the experience. I don't have a BJJ belt and I don't train in the gi much at all. But I learn things from the better BJJ players here in Korea, and more so from MMA fighters who've incorporated BJJ into their games without getting too caught up on what's BJJ, what's Judo, etc. To me, it's all just MMA.
Dallas Winston: You've improved dramatically since the Sengoku days. What is your coaching team at KTT doing so efficiently to help you along?
Chan Sung Jung: I'm always trying to get better. That is one of my biggest goals as a fighter. So, my coaches, Coach Ha and Coach Jeon, are always pushing us. They're old school in a way that most Americans wouldn't really understand or put up with.
When it comes to training, the team works as a team. If a guy has a fight, then everybody helps get that guy ready for his bout. It becomes the team "project" so to speak. Sparring partners will do what they can to mimic the opposing fighter in sparring. Everyone watches and tells you what you're doing well and what you're doing wrong. I think if there were more egos involved, people wouldn't be happy to spend several weeks in practice geared around me or Dongi [Yang]. But the team does it for everyone. So, it all evens out in the end.
Dallas Winston: Personally and mentally, what do you feel has been the biggest key(s) to your success?
Chan Sung Jung: I think my confidence and my desire to win are the things that set me apart from the other fighters. I mean, let's be real -- I'm not the biggest guy, not the fastest guy, I'm not the strongest guy, but I work with what I have and my will to win and my confidence make the difference.
Dallas Winston: What part of your performance against Poirier are you most proud of, and in which aspect do you think you could have done better?
Chan Sung Jung: I'm happy that I was able to do all of the things that I was working on in camp. I was ready for Hominick, but since that fight was over so quickly, I didn't get to prove to myself (or anyone else) that I was capable of being a more complete fighter.
I feel like I was able to showcase that in the Poirier fight. There are lots of things I could have done better; little things that I see that bug me. There are always things that you can fix.
Dallas Winston: Not only did you establish your top-level grappling skill, but you finally showed some of your Judo technique in the clinch. Do you feel like you should exploit your takedown abilities more often to impose your grappling game? Or do you prefer to fight wherever the action leads?
Chan Sung Jung: First of all, I don't really think in terms of "techniques." My game isn't compartmentalized into "Judo techniques," "BJJ moves," "wrestling," "striking," etc. It's all a part of MMA. So, during a fight, if I use a technique that I know from Judo, I don't think, "Okay now I'm going to do a Judo move to get him to the mat from the clinch." It happens much more naturally than that. It all comes out of the MMA game.
Tim Burke: Would you be able to step into a July fight with Aldo if necessary, or do you need to heal up?
Chan Sung Jung: I need some time to heal up . But -- if I got the call tomorrow about fighting Aldo ... who knows?
Dallas Winston: Obviously, everyone is now talking about that fight. Can you provide a quick analysis of his strengths and potential weaknesses, and what tools you feel are best suited for his style?
Chan Sung Jung: He's strong in all areas. He's aggressive, quick, powerful, and accurate. He's got experience and is a smart fighter. I don't really know if he has any weaknesses, to be honest with you.
As for what I offer in a match with Aldo if or when it were to happen, I think my edge would be in the mental game. I know I can win. I'm confident that I can always find a way to win... one way or another!