Chances are you probably couldn’t pick Chan Sung Jung out of a line-up, but you have fallen in love with his nickname and kamikaze fighting style. I, for one, happen to be guilty on all three counts.
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The great thing about interviewing the 23-year-old pro athlete is, well, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to say and write the words “Korean Zombie” over and over again (it’s strangely addictive. Kind of like eating potato chips). Rare is the MMA fighter who makes his U.S. debut and, almost overnight, ignites a firestorm of interest and buzz among fans.
But Jung (10-2) is that type of instant sensation and, aside from having one of the sport’s most outlandish and fitting nicknames, he can be pretty brash with his tongue. Five months removed from an epic battle against Leonard Garcia, the South Korean recently talked about his upcoming featherweight clash with George Roop, his most vivid memories of the war with Garcia, and how T-shirts bearing his likeness are selling like crazy.
Q: The Korean Zombie t-shirts have become very popular. Has the success of the shirts surprised you?
Jung: To be honest with you, I don’t think any of us expected the shirt to do as well as it did! I think we have to thank Dana (White) for a lot of that. After he wore it on TV, the sales really skyrocketed.
Q: What do you think when you see a stranger wearing a Korean Zombie t-shirt?
Jung: I saw a lot of people in Zombie t’s in Vegas at the UFC Fan Expo. It was strange at first; sometimes people would be in the elevator with us and part of my team would have their Zombie shirts on and the fans would start talking with us not even realizing who I was! One time some drunk guy in a bar actually refused to believe that I was The Korean Zombie despite the fact that all these other people were telling him it was true.
Q: Has your mother seen your fight against Leonard Garcia?
Jung: My mother’s not really that interested in MMA and my parents don’t really say much about my fights. Before my fights they always tell me not to get hurt and afterwards they always say I did a good job.
Q: During the fight with Leonard, while you were in the cage fighting, what did you enjoy most about those moments? As you remember the fight what memory stands out the most in your mind and why?
Jung: I remember thinking from the second round on that it was a really hard fight. I also remember Leonard’s mouthpiece falling out at some point. Other than that, I don’t really remember much. Overall, I enjoyed the whole thing, though.
Q: When you went back to your corner at the end of the first round what were you thinking?
Jung: I don’t really remember what I was thinking about specifically at that point, but I do remember that I just wanted to get back in there and knock him out.
Q: What achievement in your life are you most proud of? Why?
Jung: If I had won the Garcia fight, I think that would have been it. Right now, I don’t know what I would consider my proudest moment. Hopefully, the fight with George Roop will become my proudest achievement!
Q: Who are the most popular pro athletes in South Korea, in your opinion? Do you think that you have a chance to become one of South Korea's most popular athletes someday?
Jung: Yuna Kim, the figure skater is incredibly popular and Ji Sung Park, who plays for Manchester United, are two of the most popular athletes. (UFC fighter) Dong Hyun Kim is probably the most popular MMA fighter right now. I hope to be as popular as those other athletes, but they don’t show the WEC on Korea TV yet. Hopefully they will soon. I think that if I become a champion, it would really boost my popularity in Korea!
Q: What do you like most about fighting in the U.S.?
Jung: The Korean food in the US, in particular in LA, is incredible! Also, the fans are great. The fans are so knowledgeable and passionate about the sport and the support they’ve shown me has been awesome.
Q: What are your impressions of your next opponent, George Roop? What do you know about him as a fighter (his tendencies and his fighting style)?
Jung: I know he’s tall and that’s going to present problems for anyone in the featherweight division. He’s got solid stand-up and ground skills. His brains will soon be eaten.
Q: What must you do to beat him?
Jung: Knocking someone out always works.
Q: Do you think Roop will choose to stand and strike with you?
Jung: I doubt it, but it doesn’t matter to me. If I have to beat him with my jiu-jitsu, that’s fine, too. If he does want to stand with me, I’m sure it’ll be a good show while it lasts.
Q: Have you made any changes to your training camp, etc.. since your last fight? If so, what were those changes and how do you expect them to help you?
Jung: I haven’t really made any changes to my training. The adjustments I’ve made are to work with taller guys when sparring and hitting the pads higher than normal.
Q: What is more important to you, winning the fight or entertaining the fans?
Jung: That’s a tough question. They’re both important to me. I don’t know if I could say that one is more important than the other.
Q: Do you have a prediction for your fight against George Roop?
Jung: If Roop comes at me, I predict a Zombie victory in the first round. If he tries to strike with me, I predict an even faster Zombie victory in the first round.
Q: As far as American culture, do you have any favorite actors, entertainers or musicians?
Jung: I watch a lot of American TV and movies, but I don’t really have a favorite actor or entertainer. I like a lot of them. I’ve been watching “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” lately, so I might have to go gladiator on George Roop!