Kang Kyung Ho is the latest all-rounder from Team MAD in Busan, South Korea to ascend to the international stage. He joins teammate Kim “Stungun” DongHyun and fellow Koreans Yang “The Ox” DongGi and super Korean Jung “Korean Zombie” ChanSung. He will be bringing his Team MAD Coach Yang to his first UFC fight in Macau on November 10th against Alex Caceres. His training partner Bae Myoung Ho, as the Welterweight Champion of Legend FC, is already well-known to local fans.
Congratulations on your achievement! How long has the UFC been looking at you?
I don’t remember exactly when the UFC has been looking at me, but since about an year ago, I wanted to go to the UFC and we’ve been talking. I want to thank my teammates for this result, we have worked hard together. And especially, I want to thank Alan Cho hyung in Las Vegas.
What did you have to prove?
I think they look at exciting fighting style and ability to finish. I finished 90% of my wins and it probably had positive impression.
Kang got his professional fight career started in the Korean promotion Spirit FC. After his inaugural fight, he was pitted three more times against mainstays of the promotion going 3-1 before making an international break to China’s Art Of War. He ran a number on his tough Chinese opponent and triangled him near the end of a ten-minute round.
Were you already considered a fighter to watch at this point?
I participated in a MMA reality show and I won the show. Because of it, I was able to debut in Spirit MC. I think the show helped me become popular in Korea. After Spirit MC disappeared, I was not able to fight in Korea, so I started to fight overseas.
His next break came when he was signed to a DEEP/CMA organized fight and matched up against the much more experienced Atsushi Yamamoto, a then 12-6-1 veteran of Pancrase, Shooto, K-1 and DREAM. Yamamoto was coming off two losses in that year, a split decision that went to Masakazu Imanari, and a smashing in K-1 by Kazuhisa Wantanabe. Previous to 2009 though, Yamamoto held excellent wins over the likes go Hideo Tokoro and Takeya Mizugaki.
How did you land this fight and why did you agree to such an experienced opponent?
After Spirit MC disappeared, China/Japan were the only options I had. CMA Korea offered this fight. At the time, I rarely had the chance to fight, so I wanted to fight anything that was offered to me. Also, Atsushi was a very famous and skilled fighter at the time and I wanted to challenge myself.
He was able to go the distance, but the decision wasn’t in his favor.
What were your impressions of the fight?
He was way more experienced than I was, but when I actually faced him, it was not difficult. Ultimately I lost, but I gained tremendous amount of confidence.
Despite the loss, Kang’s abilities got him noticed by the elite promotion of the time, Sengoku. He was handed a bout with another young top prospect in Shigeki Osawa, who’d already found his home in the SRC ring.
How did you get on the high-profile card?
Mr. Morooka from CMA Korea liked me and wanted me to fight for this promotion. He told me that my fight against Atsushi was very impressive.
While the champion wrestler repeatedly suplexed Kang, none of them were damaging, and he was able to work off his back looking for submissions. However, the more powerful Osawa was on the judges’ scorecards for the decision.
Did you feel your game had improved a lot with international competion?
From this fight, I learned the importance of wrestling in MMA and the charm of wrestling. I learned that I lacked in wrestling so I trained very hard to improve my wrestling.
For the following 12 months, Kang traveled through other international contests KOF, Gladiators, and Grachan, winning with two rear naked chokes (one over DEEP staple then 13-9 Makoto Kamaya) and losing once via disqualification. He finally found his way back to South Korea when ROAD FC launched.
How important was a Korea-based promotion for Korean fighters?
Nothing was systematic until this promotion came along. In order for Korean fighters to become known and improve, we needed this fine promotion.
His first opponent was Bae Yong Kwon, the only Korean who has an A ranking in Shooto. Kang went straight away for a takedown. He showed incredible agility when he escaped a kimura off his back and exploded to a standing barrage. He was able to feint, attack, and get out of the box before Kwon could counter. And when Kwon was able to bang with him, he was able to take the punishment. He learned yet another tough lesson about overcommitting to a single leg when Kwon trapped him in a triangle.
What lesson did you learn in that fight? Did you feel any different pressure when finally competing in front of your own countrymen?
It is always exciting fighting in front of my own countrymen. There was no promotion for awhile for Korean fighters, so everyone used to fight overseas. It had been a long time since I fought in front of Korean fans. Korean fans’ cheers excite me and Korean fans finally were able to enjoy MMA.
Since then, Kang has gone on a tear through ROAD FC, finishing all of his fights except for one against Andrew Leone, in which he was deducted a point per round for not making weight. Kang was able to finish both opponents with ease to earn the strap around his waist.
Did you feel your game had evolved?
I always focus to finish my fight. The thrill I get by finishing is different from winning by decision. I will always try to finish.
How did you feel when a championship belt was finally strapped around you?
I was able to taste the sweetness of my victory. It was very emotional moment. I was deeply touched that I finally became the number one bantam weight in Korea and it helped me dream of a bigger future.
The new chapter in his life can begin on an international stage. With such a tough team to back him, and training partners who have paved the way, Kang Kyung Ho can look forward to a fulfilling and hopefully rewarding career in the UFC, starting with the FUEL TV event in Macau, China on November 10th.
How do you feel about your opponent, Alex Caceres?
I don’t know too well about him, but it seems like he enjoys his game. I also enjoy my game, so I think we are going to have fun out there together.
Will you change your training?
No, to this point, I always had good training therefore it’s not going to change much; but, I think I have to change; I have to focus more when I train and have stronger mind-set.
Your teammates have been to Macau many times to fight in Legend FC, how do you feel about going there?
I am very pleased to have my debut fight in Macau. My team captain Myung Ho Bae is the champion in Legend FC there. He told me good things about fighting in Macau. I always wanted to visit. Also, I don’t have to worry about adapting to time difference, so I think I’m going to be in great condition.
One more thing, who is your favorite fighter?
I like my teammate Dong Hyun Kim, Jose Aldo, and GSP; I try to learn from these fighters.
Special thanks to Alan Cho, Manager for Team MAD, for assisting in translation.