"Our style at Korean Top Team is to always be aggressive, so I'm planning on putting on an exciting fight." - Hyun Gyu Lim
He’s been called a secret weapon. Some even say that despite being stablemates with UFC vets Chan Sung Jung and Dongi Yang, he’s the best fighter coming out of the Korean Top Team gym in Seoul. That’s a lot of expectations to put on a debuting UFC fighter like Hyun Gyu Lim, but he’s found a way to deal with them. He humbly accepts the praise, then just as humbly deflects it.
“I don't really think that's true,” Lim said through translator / manager Brian Rhee. “There are other fighters at KTT who are betters fighters than I am, I was just fortunate to be the one to get the call this time.”
It’s not just fans or media members singing the praises of the 27-year-old welterweight though. Yang said before his fight with Brad Tavares that Lim is “one of the most talented fighters in Korea,” and in a 2012 interview with BloodyElbow.com, Jung declared that “He's probably the best all around fighter on our team.”
High praise for someone yet to step foot in the Octagon, and not bad for someone who once questioned whether he wanted to continue in the sport after a rough patch in 2008-09 where he dropped back-to-back bouts which put his record at a less than enticing 5-3-1.
“After I had two straight losses, I really had to re-evaluate whether I wanted to go on as a professional or not,” said Lim. “I took it really hard, but I promised that I would give myself one more chance. From that point on I took things on a fight by fight basis and, thankfully, things have worked out.”
Sitting out for nearly a year to get his game to where he wanted it to be for him to make a serious run at getting to the UFC, Lim returned in February of 2010 with a first round TKO of Slade Adelbai, kicking off the five fighting winning streak he’ll bring into the Octagon with him for his debut on November 10 against David Mitchell.
“I felt that if I kept at it and didn't give up, eventually I'd get to the UFC,” said Lim of his seven year journey to the biggest show in the MMA world. “Keeping the UFC in my sights kept me motivated to work harder and harder for every fight. I'm glad to finally got into the UFC, but now the real work begins.”
That attitude will serve him well moving forward, and getting some helpful hints from Jung and Yang hasn’t hurt his preparation for this new step in his career either.
“I've gotten some tips from both guys,” said the Seoul native. “Some things about working against the cage, and things like that. More than anything, they've been encouraging me a lot.”
Not that it’s been completely smooth sailing, as Lim’s original opponent, Marcelo Guimaraes fell out of the bout due to injury, prompting the call to Mitchell. Lim hasn’t been thrown off too much by the switch.
“No, not really,” he said. “Obviously, his style is different from Marcelo Guimaraes, but they are both grapplers, so it hasn't really changed my game plan too much. I know that he (Mitchell) is a very good grappler and he hasn't been knocked out before, so that shows you that he's a tough guy. To be honest with you, there are no bad fighters in the UFC. You can't overlook anyone at this level of the game, so I'm definitely not getting cocky for my debut.”
Is he starting to get the first time nerves as the fight approaches?
“I'm anxious and very excited,” he said. “I'm not as nervous as I expected, but I'm just anxious to get in the Octagon.”
One stressor that has been removed from the equation is the reality of the significant travel time involved for a fight in the United States. Fighting in China, Lim will be dealing with an approximately three hour trip, which is a lot better than taking a 12 and a half hour flight to Las Vegas.
“Definitely,” he said. “One big thing that is always an issue when fighting in the US, or other countries, is the jetlag. It takes a long time to get your body on the right schedule when traveling to the US. Also, having other Korean fighters on the card is nice. There are going to be a lot of friends, family and Korean fans in Macao, as well, so it's really a blessing for me to be able to make my debut in Macao.”
A week from today, fight fans worldwide, not just in Macau, will see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Hyun Gyu Lim. And if the advance notices are accurate, he may want to get his travel gear in order for some longer trips around the world in 2013. As for next Saturday, he’s ready to bring it.
“Our style at Korean Top Team is to always be aggressive, so I'm planning on putting on an exciting fight,” said Lim. “I want to show fans around the world that Asian fighters can compete and entertain at the highest level.”