ChanSung “The Korean Zombie” Jung faces the most important fight of his life this coming Saturday when he challenges five-time defender Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship. On August 3, 2013, Jung will stand in front of of a hostile Brazilian crowd when he steps in the Octagon as the first Asian fighter to ever earn a UFC title shot.
The Korean Zombie is simply referred to as “Jombie” by his Korean friends and fans because the ‘j’ is the closest phoneme to ‘z’ in the Korean language. If you didn’t know him to be a fighter, you would probably think it was the strangest nickname possible for such a polite, smiling, and soft-spoken man. Zombie is just 26 and looks even younger, but he’s heralded as a hero in Korea for his accomplishments that have made his countrymen proud and proved that Korean MMA is on the rise. He’s recently leapt ahead to further develop Korean MMA by opening his own gym, Korean Zombie MMA in Seoul. MMA-in-ASIA last interviewed Zombie on video about his gym in April earlier this year.
Zombie was granted the UFC title shot after Anthony Pettis pulled out due to injury, even though he hasn’t fought in over a year, because his 3-0 UFC record by way of stellar finishes makes him a legit contender. He’s coming in as the underdog to Aldo, a position he’s very familiar with. We caught up with Zombie before the fight to ask about how he’s been training for this fight, the progress of his gym, and MMA in general.
MMA-in-ASIA: First of all, congratulations on your title shot!
Korean Zombie: Thanks, I really appreciate it.
MMA-in-ASIA: Can you explain what you felt when you were pulled from the Lamas fight just three weeks before it, and given a title shot?
KZ: I was focused on getting ready for Lamas, but when I heard the news, I was incredibly excited to finally get my chance to fight Jose Aldo.
MMA-in-ASIA: The fight with Aldo gave you an extra 4 weeks to train. How did you change your camp for him?
KZ: I sparred with more strikers, getting guys to imitate Aldo. So, obviously, the camp has been more geared to Jose, but overall, not too much changed.
MMA-in-ASIA: In what areas are you focusing your training?
KZ: I’m focusing on Aldo’s strengths – knees, uppercuts, low kicks…
MMA-in-ASIA: Who are some of your sparring partners?
KZ: I sparred with a lot of Korean fighters, especially a lot of purely stand up fighters. I also trained with a super talented young fighter named Doo Ho Choi. My sparring partners and coaches that came with me to Brazil are Doowon Seo, Jae Sun Lee and former K-1 fighter, Takeyoshi Tominaga.
MMA-in-ASIA: Is there someone responsible for providing a game plan to you?
KZ: Jae Sun Lee, the coach of Team Posse, has been working with me on my gameplan.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve had some time away from fighting, how is your condition now?
KZ: Really great. I’m ready to go.
MMA-in-ASIA: Will the layoff affect you in any way, good or bad?
KZ: The time off was good for me mentally and physically. Physically, it forced me to rest some nagging injuries and, of course, fixed the shoulder that was giving me so many problems before the Poirier fight. Mentally, the downtime really got me focused and motivated.
MMA-in-ASIA: Yes, you’ve said it’s the mental game you must win against Aldo. How are you mentally preparing for this title fight?
KZ: There’s no specific mental “training” that I do, it’s more just my state of mind. I’m focused and ready and I’m going to put it all on the line to get the win.
MMA-in-ASIA: Being in Brazil – with a different time zone and different living conditions – how are you preparing for this? Have you brought your own food, going early, anything else special?
KZ: I’m already in Sao Paulo. I came in 2 weeks before the fight. I specifically came to Sao Paulo, because there is a large Korean community here, so I don’t have any huge adjustments with food. The time difference is usually my biggest concern, but I’ve been getting over the jetlag faster than usual. Now, I just have to get my body used to peaking at a fairly late hour (main card starts at 11pm, local time).
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you feel pressured to represent Korean MMA?
KZ: No. I’m proud to be represented Korea and Korean MMA, but I’m focused on the fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: How is Korean Zombie MMA Gym doing since our last interview?
KZ: The gym is doing really well. I can’t complain about anything in regard to the gym.
MMA-in-ASIA: Lee YunJun, your student, preformed very well against a much more experienced opponent, Takafumi Otsuka, at Road FC 12. How did you prepare him for that fight?
KZ: More than what I did to prepare, Yun Jun did well in getting ready for that fight. I’m very excited to see how far he can go as a fighter.
MMA-in-ASIA: Can you explain the dominance of the Korean fighters at that event?
KZ: The home team advantage helps, but it just shows that Korean fighters are getting better and better. A lot of the Japanese fighters were older veterans, but the younger generation of Korean fighters are getting better and better.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have any more students who will be starting to fight this year?
KZ: Yes, I have a few young guys on my team who, hopefully, will be making their debuts this year.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you developed a training and conditioning program at your gym that you can share?
KZ: There’s nothing new that we’re doing at our gym. We run in the morning, do team training in the afternoon, hit pads and lift weights at night. It’s fairly basic.
MMA-in-ASIA: What did you think of the Silva/Weidman fight?
KZ: I was shocked. I really wasn’t expecting Silva to lose like that, but it shows that all fighters are human. Anyone can lose at any time.
MMA-in-ASIA: Many injuries have plagued recent anticipated UFC fights. Do you think there is too much pressure, or is it part of the job?
KZ: It’s all part of the job. You can’t expect guys to be fighting at this level and training light. You have to go hard in training if you want to perform at the top of your game. It’s a sport where people get hurt. There’s no getting around that.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are you doing to keep yourself healthy?
KZ: The same as always – eat well, rest a lot, work out hard.
MMA-in-ASIA: Many young fighters in Japan and Korea are aiming for the UFC, like Choi DooHoo and Kyoji Horiguchi. Since your career quickly progressed to the upper levels, can you give advice to aspiring talented fighters about the competition they will face, or what they should prepare for?
KZ: There are people who ask for my advice, but until a fighter gets to the UFC, it’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen. I would tell any young fighters not to worry so much about just going to the UFC, but to do their best wherever they’re fighting. The opportunity will come if they’re up to the task.
MMA-in-ASIA: Looking back on your ascent, would you change anything about the fights you accepted?
KZ: No, I learned and benefitted from every fight I’ve had so far. I wouldn’t change anything that I can think of.
MMA-in-ASIA: All of Asia is wishing Korean Zombie the best in his fight for the Featherweight Title against Jose Aldo at UFC 163 on August 3, 2013.