Nam YuiChul makes his first title defense of the Lightweight belt at ROAD FC 13 on October 12, 2013 in Gumi, South Korea against Kume Takasuke. The brutal and grinding fighter has inspired lovers and haters throughout his career, and his most recent run up the latter has marked more of the former – he became a posterboy of sorts for ROAD FC and the new wave of super strong Korean fighters looking to dominate at home and abroad. Nam finally realized the goal of achieving a championship, and ahead of his first title defence against the man he won it from, MMA-in-ASIA was able to delve a bit deeper into the polarizing champ’s psyche.
MMA-in-ASIA: Let’s go back a bit to your time fighting before the ROAD FC Lightweight Tournament. You fought some wars in Legend FC. You said in an interview once that you couldn’t get a fair decision outside of Korea.
Nam: When I fought in Legend, I sometimes disagreed with the decision but I had to accept it.
MMA-in-ASIA: You also had a “badass” attitude inside and outside in the ring. But when you started in ROAD FC it changed; you smiled, you had people cheering you on. Why was there a huge change in your attitude?
Nam: It was when I fought away from Korea that my attitude changed. If I went to a decision, I knew I was going to lose. I had to have a tough attitude inside and out to be able to deal with it while I was fighting away games. When I fight in Korea, I’m more relaxed. There’s a Korean crowd who supports me, and I have my team behind me. And I know if it goes to decision, they are going to be fair with me.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve been fighting at the top of the lightweight division in Asia for a while now so the opportunity to fight in the US must have entered your thoughts at some point. Yet when you contested for the title, you said you’d be happy to stay in Korea at ROAD FC.
Nam: Going to the UFC is every fighters’ dream because it’s the number one organization in the world. ROAD FC is not close to UFC right now, but it has the potential to get as big as the UFC. In order to do that, as the champion right now, I believe I have to keep fighting in ROAD FC to support it. As MMA in Korea gets bigger as ROAD FC grows bigger, I want to be a part of the culture, and motivate people to join MMA.
MMA-in-ASIA: You get your share of haters for your style, and when you fight, your opponents know you are so strong an they have to bring everything to you. These things make your fighting life very tough. Do you ever think to change up your style?
Nam: Well, my style is always aggressive, going forward, forward, forward. But every fight I’ve fought has been with a different strategy. So my aggression makes it look the same.
MMA-in-ASIA: In your title fight with Kume Takasuke for the belt, the first three rounds were very close and extremely challenging. However in the fourth, people talked about the refereeing being unfair when Kume was forced to stand, and that you were allowed to grab the cage. How do you respond when people talk about these issues in the fight?
Nam: I know people complained about that, but I was doing what I needed to do to win the fight. So I know I did everything I could to win that fight. I’m not influenced by what other people are talking about aside from that. Even though I grabbed the cage twice, I think, it didn’t change the fact that I had already done what I needed to do to win the fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve been a very strong fighter for a long time. What’s your workout regimen like?
Nam: I condition and I build my strength because it’s very important for a fight, but the reason I am dominant in fights is because I focus on my opponents’ weakness. That’s my strategy and that’s why I look very strong when I fight. For example, if someone has a weak takedown defense, then I will always go for the takedown.
MMA-in-ASIA: How were you able to exploit Kume’s weakness the first time, and will you do that in the rematch?
Nam: I watched all Kume’s fight videos. He has very strong pressure and always comes forarward. When I watched his fights, what I was thinking was that if I turn towards his back, try to avoid his pressure so he can’t pressure me, then I could win the fight. The whole point was to avoid his pressure.
MMA-in-ASIA: How important is it for you to keep the belt in Korea?
Nam: I’m going to put a lot of effort into keeping the belt in Korea because it’s not just my efforts, but my whole team at Team Posse who has put effort into getting this belt. So I need to work hard to keep it because of all the team effort that’s been put into it. ROAD FC is becoming number one in Asia, getting internationally bigger. If other guys from other countries get belts, I don’t mind, but as long as I have this belt I will work hard to keep it.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you want to thank anyone?
Nam: I want to thank everyone one from Team Posse, the members from the fight team, and all the members of the team, because I feel their importance every time I fight. MMA is not a one-person sport, it’s a team sport. Everyone has to put an effort in it as a team so I want to thank everyone from Team Posse.
MMA-in-ASIA: What does Nam YuiChul do outside of MMA?
Nam: I enjoy coffee, good food and reading. I’m very different outside the cage. I also want to teach the younger guys about MMA. My main focus is giving them good advice. Team Posse is like family, so we’re always together. I coach 2-3 hours a day so this is pretty much my life.