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Dan Ige Believes He Is ‘Championship-Worthy’

Featherweight Balances New Fatherhood And A Run At The Division's Elite

Dan Ige smiles, saying he no longer feels like “Dan Ige.” Instead, he’s just “Bam’s Dad.”

“It’s honestly the best thing ever,” Ige said of becoming a father recently. “My son was literally born right into fight camp, and coming home every single day and seeing him and picking him up has been a reminder of why I do this, and it’s given me an external driver to succeed, so I love being a dad and just coming home every single day and holding my son and looking at him and watching him grow up. It’s been the best thing ever, and I can’t wait to watch him grow into a man. I love it.”

Don't Miss UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige

Ige and his wife Savannah welcomed their son Bam into the world this past April and, naturally, he is regularly thrown a flurry of questions about fatherhood as he prepares for the second main event of his UFC career. It’s not a complete change from the build-up to his last fight, when Ige prepared while Savannah neared her due date, and if that performance is indicative of how he handles the pestering about parenthood, he’ll be just fine.

Against Gavin Tucker, Ige delivered a stunning knockout just 22 seconds into his fight, earning his second performance bonus and setting himself up for a date with “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung, on June 19.

Megan Olivi Interviews Dan Ige | UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige
Megan Olivi Interviews Dan Ige | UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Ige
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“I’ve always had the power,” Ige told UFC.com. “It’s just about finding the target at the right timing, so it showed in my last fight. That being said, I have so many more tools that I didn’t show in that fight, which is nice.”

Other than the obvious positives drawn from such an emphatic win, Ige enjoyed the fact that his quick night allowed him to keep a lot of improvements he made under wraps. Heading into the Tucker bout, Ige was coming off his first loss in two years – a competitive decision loss to Calvin Kattar on UFC Fight Island. Despite the disappointing result, Ige took the chance to work on his skills for the better part of eight months before throwing himself back into fight camp.

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It’s nearly impossible to replicate the tension of a UFC main event, not to mention the quality of opponent that slot necessitates. It allowed Ige to know, with absolute certainty, the kind of pace he can push for a full 25 minutes against someone as dangerous as Kattar. The battle also shed light on what life is like when your name is on the marquee as the headliner.

 Dan Ige prepares to fight Calvin Kattar in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 16, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Dan Ige prepares to fight Calvin Kattar in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 16, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“Obviously, more cameras, more interviews, more spotlight, more people asking stuff from me,” he said. “I’m able to handle that stuff. I love this stuff. I love talking to the media. I love signing posters, doing all the photos – it’s part of my job. Some people complain about this because, I don’t know, they don’t want to wake up early, they don’t want to do the extra work, but this is all part of my job. So is fighting. I love this. I’m nothing but confident going into this fight.”

The biggest difference in this main event (other than the location and opponent) also brings us back to the whole “Bam’s dad” thing. Raising a newborn is a full-time job in itself, and Ige knows he has plenty of help available in his wife, whom he calls “incredible,” as well as his mother, who came to Vegas to help.

FREE FIGHTS: Frankie Edgar vs The Korean Zombie | Mirsad Bektic vs Dan Ige

Additionally, the extra responsibility helped Ige create a more solid organization when it came to his time management.

“I found a structure really fast,” Ige said. “It almost forced me to have structure in my life, something I’ve never really had. I just go train every day and do whatever I do every day, but I never had that structure to it. Now, I have complete structure in my life, in my training, and it’s made me a better fighter.”

Dan Ige 22-Second KO | UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad
Dan Ige 22-Second KO | UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Muhammad
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Only his best will do against Jung, who has plenty to prove coming off a main event loss to Brian Ortega. It’s definitely Ige’s highest-profile fight to date as he has made a steady climb up the vaunted featherweight division since debuting in January 2018.

The moment isn’t lost on Ige, who knows all that The Korean Zombie has done in an action-packed career.

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“I have a lot to prove in this fight,” Ige said. “I don’t know if it’s my ego, but I want to be better than him everywhere. No disrespect, Korean Zombie is a legend. He’s been fighting for forever. I’ve watched him since before I was even fighting, and here I am, I get to face one of the guys that I looked up to, a guy that I was a fan of for so many years, and I’m still a fan, but, at the end of the day, he’s my opponent, and I can’t give him that respect, so I’m just going to go in there, treat it like any other fight and try to outclass him in any way and every way possible.”

Dan Ige knees Edson Barboza of Brazil in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 16, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
Dan Ige knees Edson Barboza of Brazil in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 16, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

A win over The Korean Zombie catapults Ige into the featherweight title picture. With Alexander Volkanovski set to defend his title against Ortega following their stint as coaches on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter, Ige has a chance to put himself in the conversation with the top of the division, whether that means a title shot or something like a No. 1-contender fight.

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Ultimately, Ige believes he has the spotlight at 145 pounds before the division gets shaken up at the top, and that moment on the big stage is one he plans to make full use of on fight night. A big enough performance, and maybe, for a moment, Ige can feel like he is “Bam’s dad… who is a UFC featherweight title contender.”

“I want to just mark myself as a contender,” Ige said. “I feel like I kind of get overlooked at times because I’m not outstanding anywhere, but I want to show that I am a true contender, and I’m champion-worthy.”