Think of a young quarterback showing up to the Kansas City Chiefs training camp and getting to be an understudy to Pat Mahomes, or an outfielder with the intentions of playing major league baseball making the trip to spring training and receiving the opportunity to hit the diamond alongside Aaron Judge.
That’s the origin story of SeungGuk Choi, who saw highlights of “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung, and decided he wanted to fight for a living. So he showed up at Jung’s gym. Seven pro fights later, the Korean Zombie MMA team member is in Las Vegas, awaiting his Octagon debut against HyunSung Park in the flyweight final of the Road to UFC tournament.
“I wanted to become a professional fighter after seeing Korean Zombie highlights, so I just packed my bag, went straight to his gym and asked him if I could train with him,” said Choi. “To this day, it sometimes feels unreal that I am a part of his team. I am proud to be a part of Team Zombie, and he is a great inspiration for me.”
At the time, Choi was a student and soccer player, with no desire to change sports. And while he has no regrets about his choice, he does believe he would have been successful on the pitch if he stuck with it.
“When I was into soccer, I wasn’t really interested in MMA,” he said. “But after seeing the Korean Zombie highlights, MMA became my thing. I would’ve done great as a soccer player as well, though.”
That athleticism is clear through his first series of pro fights in which he’s compiled a 6-1 record with two wins by knockout, and after a pair of victories over Rama Supandhi and Qiu Lun, he’s a win over Park away from a UFC contract.
“I see him as a well-balanced fighter that stands out in the modern day MMA scene, capable of putting someone down both standing and on the ground,” said Choi of his opponent, who scored two first-round finishes on his way to Las Vegas, a bucket list item for any fighter.
“It feels unreal that I am fighting in Las Vegas,” said Choi. “I am super excited, but I won’t let that affect my performance in any way.”
That focus is necessary, not just this weekend, but moving forward should he get the chance to battle the best flyweights in the world every time out. That’s the dream, and Choi is eager to realize it.
“Fighting in the UFC was my dream and goal, right from when I started training for this sport,” he said. “I believe it is time for me to make this dream come true.”
He’s got the potential, just like Park does, but what the 26-year-old has in his back pocket is the experience of Jung, something few can claim.
“Actually, I was a part of Zombie’s training camp when he was preparing for his title shot last year,” said Choi. “Being there, he really showed me why I have to become a UFC fighter. Being around him leads to these rare opportunities and experiences, and they work as a great motivation when I train. Also, he teaches me a lot of great MMA tools and tactics, tips for cutting weight, everything. I’m learning a lot from him, and I thank him for that.”
Of course, come fight night, it’s all up to Seoul’s Choi, and he’s well aware of that, and happy to go through whatever he has to emotionally to get the job done.
“I’ll probably be really excited, but I won’t let this excitement get to me in the wrong way,” he said. “As always, I am going to go up there, do what I do, and come back down with a solid win.”
Then it’s off to the next one, preferably with three particular letters on his gloves.
“I think the flyweight division recently became popular because a lot of the athletes are showing great performances,” Choi said. “I’d like to make the division even more popular by showing an outstanding performance of my own in the UFC. I’d like to do that every time I step into the Octagon.”