“I don't have any other hobbies. All I do is train.”
Fighters like to tell this story, with varying levels of believability. But just a cursory glance at Da-un Jung’s resume, and you realize he’s probably telling the truth.
After an uneven start to his professional career at heavyweight, Jung dropped down to light heavyweight in 2016 and has remained undefeated since. Of those 11 straight victories, only one was by decision. But while some fighters will tell you that they’re always looking to end it quickly, Jung speaks almost as if it’s something beyond his immediate control.
“I never ‘look’ for the finish,” he explains through a translator. “I apply more and more pressure until my opponent makes a mistake, and once that mistake appears I capitalize on it. The finish happens almost all by itself.”
The most recent finish to happen “by itself” was his UFC debut on August’s Shenzhen card, a third-round standing submission of Khadis Ibragimov. Were it not enough that Ibragimov was undefeated coming into the fight, he was also the biggest betting favorite on the entire card, not to mention a short-notice replacement for Jung’s original opponent Jamahal Hill.
“He was very tough, and the last minute opponent switch made me a little nervous,” concedes Jung. “However, I think it was a good experience. I learned how to remain cool under pressure, go with the flow.”
In becoming the first man to ever defeat, let alone finish, the touted prospect, it was evident that the Daegu, Korea native had the goods. On the merits of that dominant outing, he now finds himself squarely featured on the main card of Saturday’s UFC Busan event for his sophomore promotional outing, squaring off against former Dana White’s Contender Series threat Mike Rodriguez.
“I think this is my toughest opponent to date. His southpaw stance and kickboxing style has the potential to give anyone trouble.”
Respectful, to be sure. But Jung doesn’t sound worried when as he says this. And the fact that he’s fighting in his native land is the icing on his cake.
“I'm so excited to represent Korea, I want to fight already! I feel like I'm even stronger than before because I don't have to travel.”
And when he finally makes that walk and hears the pop of the Korean crowd, it will amount to far more than a simple homefield advantage. It will be the culmination of an endeavor that started long ago
“I'm amazed at the journey I took to get here. I started out boxing when I was younger. My grades in school weren't very good, so after my mandatory military service I decided to try MMA.”
Safely stated, that decision is working out.