“After ten years, now I'm finally a UFC fighter and I promise I'm going to put on a great show in the UFC." - Nam Yui Chul
Nicknames are a part of mixed martial arts culture at this point, though some are certainly forgettable. One that isn’t belongs to lightweight newcomer Nam Yui Chul, who was given a pretty appropriate one in “The Korean Bulldozer.”
Yeah, that goes on the cool list.
“The Korean fans gave me the name because of my pressuring style,” said Nam through manager / translator Kyler Kim. “Basically, I like boxing and wrestling and I give my opponent constant pressure from the first round until the last round, like a bulldozer.”
Kind of makes you not want to be Nam’s opponent, Kazuki Tokudome, this weekend in Macao, and despite the Japanese veteran’s edge in UFC experience (he is 1-1 in the Octagon), the 32-year-old from Seoul has done his homework on his foe, making him an even more intimidating prospect in the days leading up to the bout.
“First, he is very strong in the clinch, and his takedowns from there are excellent,” said Nam. “He has decent ground skill as well. I think the fact that he is very good at defense, not offense, could be his biggest weapon, but at the same time the biggest hole in his game as well.”
Offense is the hallmark of Korean UFC fighters such as “The Korean Zombie,” Jung Chan Sung, and Lim Hyun Gyu, and after Macao headliner Kim Dong Hyun opened the doors for his countrymen after his Octagon debut in 2008, several standouts from Korea made their way into the organization. Nam is the latest, nearly six years after Kim’s first UFC fight, but if anything, he’s a patient man.
“Of course fighting in the UFC has been my dream as a fighter, but I've also tried my best just to beat my opponent anywhere, anytime,” he said. “I think focusing on your current task is the fastest way to move on to another level.”
That focus has led him to wins in seven of his last eight bouts, including four straight. Nam also owns a 2009 win over current UFC fighter Hacran Dias, a nice feather in his cap that shows he hasn’t just been feasting on local talent. But these days, even if you are fighting opponents strictly from your local area, the level has gone up from what it was years ago, and Nam has had a front row seat for the evolution of MMA in Korea.
“Comparing the scene to when I started the sport ten years ago, the development is unbelievable,” he said. “Lots of TV programs are being produced relating to this sport, including various movies and dramas. It's becoming one of the hottest sports in Korea, and the level of Korean fighters is very high.”
Fellow lightweight prospect Bang Tae Hyun has already made it to the UFC, losing a January decision to Mairbek Taisumov, and Nam admits that there are plenty of expectations on him when it comes to this Saturday’s fight, and beyond. But he’s using that as fuel.
“Since I've been the king of the lightweights in Korea for a long time, many Korean fans are wondering how well I am going to do in the UFC,” he said. “Even I wonder how things are going to work for myself in the UFC. But I think that is very positive pressure and it is a huge motivation for my training and everything.”
Another motivation is his belief that while other divisions have seemingly unstoppable champions, the 155-pound weight class has a lot of options for a fighter hoping to one day challenge the current boss, Anthony Pettis.
“In some weight classes, we have emperors like Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez, but not in the lightweight division,” said Nam. “Pettis became the new champ recently, and lots of veterans are staying while at the same time many young lions are catching up. In my opinion, this is the tightest division of all.”
It’s one Nam hopes to make an immediate impact in come Saturday. That’s just the way a bulldozer operates.
“I'd like to give myself credit for not giving up MMA in spite of so much hardship,” he said, also making it a point to thank his coaches, teammates, and fans. “After ten years, now I'm finally a UFC fighter and I promise I'm going to put on a great show in the UFC.”
To watch UFC Fight Night: Kim vs. Hathaway exclusively on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday, March 1, sign up here