Even for a sport that has a tendency to fly by in a blur, it’s still shocking when you realize it has almost been two years since we last saw Dooho Choi in the Octagon. Back in January 2018, on a freezing night in St. Louis, a brutal TKO from Jeremy Stephens sent the wunderkind back to his native Korea. It wasn’t the ideal sendoff he had hoped for, but it doesn’t weigh heavily on him either.
“The past is gone already,” Choi explains through a translator. “The present cannot change the past.”
Mercifully, what the present can provide is the imminent return of one of the UFC’s most dynamic featherweight talents, who over the course of his 14-win career has only had to rely on the judges’ scorecards twice.
The loss to Stephens was preceded by the only other loss in his UFC tenure, a back-and-forth brawl with Cub Swanson that without hyperbole is one of the all-time great fights of the modern era. And while Choi sagely has sagely left the past behind him, those two defeats are still stains that he would like to one day wash clean.
“I want to build up again and fight Stephens again,” he confirmed.
He made similar overtures to Swanson last October when he wrote on Instagram:
“Swanson’s recent fight was amazing and he is a fighter that I have always respected. I came across his recent interview that he believes that we need to have a rematch in which we owe to the fans. I also strongly feel the same but unfortunately I haven’t finished my military duties where it restricts me from flying overseas. Also I understand that he was just fought in UFC Fight Night 161 and that he would need to rest and recover but if him and the UFC can organize a fight in Busan, I guarantee that it will be the craziest fight of 2019!”
Anyone who saw that match would agree, but it will have to remain on our wish lists for the time being. Still, the matchmakers had fans in mind when they slated Choi to return against Canada’s Charles Jourdain. The former TKO featherweight champion shares Choi’s proclivity for finishing his fights, and the “Korean Superboy” recognized the potential for fireworks.
“Although he is new to UFC, he has good fundamental fighting skills. I don’t underestimate him, and I have worked very hard to prepare for him.”
“I think I have gained a depth in the philosophy of the combat sports,” he says of his time away. “A lot of things have changed, but one thing I can say is now I can enjoy the practice of fighting more than any previous time.”
That’s amazing news for long-patient fight fans, and positively frightening news for his opponents.
Two years of watching the ebb and flow of his division while he stood on the sidelines was no easy feat, but the relief of returning to the stage Saturday is sweetened all the more by the opportunity to do it in front of his home country; an honor he’s only had twice in a decade-long professional career.
“I am so happy to fight in my home country of Korea. I love to fight here. There are only good things: timezone, food, environment. I feel like every little thing helps me. I wish to fight here more often. I am very much looking forward to hearing and feeling the passion of the Korean crowd. I will show them my best performance.”