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Chan Sung Jung of South Korea celebrates after knocking out Frankie Edgar in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Sajik Arena 3 on December 21, 2019 in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Athletes

The Title Is Still The Goal For The Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung Looks To Get Back In The Driver's Seat vs Dan Ige

“How can I answer that?” laughs Chan Sung Jung when asked what his level of stardom is like in his home country of South Korea.

It’s a fair question, considering that “The Korean Zombie” is one of the fighters who has put South Korean MMA on the map and has represented his nation on the sport’s biggest stage for over a decade, making him quite a different celebrity at home than he is in what he calls his “second home” in Arizona.

“Without being conceited or anything, in Korea, I've done a lot of talk shows and things like that, so most guys in Korea pretty much recognize me and know who I am,” said Jung through translator / coach Eddie Cha. “Women in Korea, it's kind of so-so, because a lot of them don't watch UFC or MMA, so it's a different thing.”

Rise Of The Korean Zombie
Rise Of The Korean Zombie
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But it’s still a thing where daily life in Seoul can get quite hectic as an elite featherweight contender, husband, and father, along with being someone regularly noticed on the street by fans hoping for a selfie or an autograph. In the States, he doesn’t have to be “The Zombie,” he can just be Chan.

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“It definitely helps coming to the States,” said the 34-year-old. “It helps me to not think about all the other things. I have better coaching here, better teammates and everything is catered around me, so it's a lot easier. But as far as pictures and stuff, I don't mind taking pictures with fans. I actually like it for the most part.”

That class has made him one of the most popular fighters of his era. Oh, that and the fact that every time he steps into the Octagon, he’s one of the surest bets in the sport to deliver either a highlight-reel finish or an unforgettable war – sometimes both at the same time. Eight post-fight bonuses in nine UFC fights don’t lie, and it’s why he is engaging in his eighth consecutive main event this Saturday against Dan Ige.

That type of resume doesn’t need a championship belt to be among the most impressive ever posted at 145 pounds, but after battling the best of the featherweight division and missing out on a title against Jose Aldo in 2013, Jung is still hoping to find that perfect mix of becoming a champion while still being the action hero everyone knows and loves.

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

“The title's definitely still the goal and I still want to put on exciting fights,” said Jung, who can get moving in the right direction again if he beats Ige following an October 2020 loss to Brian Ortega. Ortega is now scheduled to face Alexander Volkanovski for the 145-pound belt while Jung is on the road back. But that’s no issue for a fighter who has long performed his best when the pressure was at its highest.

Why?

Because he’s never had a choice.

Top Finishes: The Korean Zombie
Check out some of the most eye-popping moments from The Korean Zombie.
Top Finishes: The Korean Zombie
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When Jung came to the United States in 2010 and engaged in a Fight of the Year classic with Leonard Garcia in the WEC, there was no turning back. Stateside fans wanted and needed to see more of “The Korean Zombie.” They got their wish, and at the same time, South Korea’s MMA scene got a hero to join Dong Hyun Kim in putting their nation on the map. Every time he fought, they watched, and it wasn’t easy for Jung to not only prepare for a fight but deal with delivering a performance his compatriots would be proud of.

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“The difference is that in the US, there are so many UFC fighters,” he said. “In Korea, there's only a handful, especially in the Top 10, so the pressure is way different. We're a smaller country and there's just not a lot of athletes in the UFC, so when somebody does perform, it's a huge, huge deal. It's all over the media and you definitely do feel the pressure.”

Bonus Résumé | The Korean Zombie
Bonus Résumé | The Korean Zombie
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But every time he was asked to step up, he did, and win or lose, he gave South Korea something to smile about. On Saturday night, he’ll do it again, and this time, he’s not one of a few, but one of many, and that group of fighters has “The Korean Zombie” to thank for that, even if he’s reluctant to take that praise.

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“That’s another tough one for me because I don't want to take credit for anything,” he laughs, “But there's a lot more fighters who are really hungry and inspired to become a UFC champion and get into the UFC, so it's good to see. It's good for the sport, it's good for the country.”