You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who has anything negative to say about Chan Sung Jung, aka "The Korean Zombie." Heck, UFC president Dana White, who rarely wears fighter T-Shirts, has worn the famous "Korean Zombie" T-shirt on numerous occasions. That's a nice feather in his cap.
On Tuesday, he'll meet Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 3 in Fairfax, Va. MMAFighting.com spoke to Jung recently about the upcoming fight, what's at stake, his thoughts on Poirier, his growing popularity in Korea and his thoughts on UFC Octagon Girl Arianny Celeste.
Ariel Helwani: Does it feel any different knowing you're preparing for your first UFC main event fight?
Chan Sung Jung: Definitely. I'm motivated to work that much harder knowing that it's for a main event. Not that I don't work hard for other fights, but the fight being a main event makes it special.
Yes, I think so. I think right now Dustin and I are the main contenders for a fight against Aldo, for a number of reasons, so it makes sense that the winner of our fight would be the next in line for Aldo.
Do you feel as though not enough people talk about you as one of the current top contenders in the weight class?
A lot of people count me out as a top contender in at 145. I still have a lot to prove in the minds of the fans and in my own mind, as well. I want to fight, and beat, the best competition. Once I've done that, people will have no doubt about my standing in the division. I want to prove it to myself and to everyone else. Shouldn't that be the goal of every fighter? To fight the toughest guys, the best guys and show that you're better than them?
Have you brought in anyone in particular to help you to train for Poirier?
I've been working with our team captain, Jang Yong Kim, because he most closely resembles Poirier skill-wise. Other than that, I've been working my all around game, because Dustin is such a well-rounded fighter. Ben Henderson stopped by and trained with KTT a few times, too. He is a great guy and a beast in training, so working with a guy like that is only going to help.
Have you been impressed with what he has been doing lately in the UFC?
Yes, he's been having a good run lately. That said, I still think I have the upper hand on him in standing and on the ground.
What do you think is his biggest strength and biggest weakness as a fighter?
His biggest strengths are that he's tough and he's very composed, especially for a relatively young guy. I think that his weakness is that while he's well-rounded, he doesn't stand out in one particular area.
In February, you tweeted "Dustin Poirier? 6 seconds." Does that mean you are predicting a six-second KO on May 15?
It would probably be tough to knock him out in 6 seconds. We all try get interest in the fights on social media, but I am confident in my ability to get a KO in any fight. This fight is no exception.
He recently released a parody video of him about to slay a bunch of zombies. What did you make of that?
I thought it was pretty good. Since it didn't actually show what happened in the fight, I like to think the zombies won. But, it's definitely savvy marketing and it's the sort of thing that fans like to see.
You have been gaining a lot of popularity in Korea recently, why do you think that is?
I think because of the "Twister" victory against Leonard Garcia and the seven-second win over (Mark) Hominick. It's the first time a Korean fighter has had big wins like that in the UFC, so the Korean fans have responded to that. I'm really thankful for all my fans, here in Korea, in the US and all around the world. I can't thank the fans enough.
How popular is MMA in Korea these days? And has the rise of Benson Henderson helped at all?
These days MMA in Korea is probably more popular than it is in Japan. Korean fighters are getting better and better, and it shows in the UFC and other organizations. Ben's success, in light of the fact that his mother is Korean, and his love of his Korean heritage, has been a boost to the popularity of the UFC and MMA in Korea. He's a very likeable guy and people can see that. Ben could be a huge star in Korea, so I hope he stays champion for a long time.
You were on a variety show with Arianny Celeste last year. What did you think of her?
Obviously, Arianny is very attractive and a beautiful. It's tough for me to approach her though, because my English isn't great and I've heard that American women aren't into Asian men. But, yeah, I like her. (laughs)
Your manager, Brian Rhee, recently said that Tri-Coasta, the maker of your famous Korean Zombie T-shirt, is "screwing" you. Can you explain what is going on between you and the brand right now?
We're pursuing legal action at the moment, so my lawyer has advised me not to comment on the matter. As much as I'd like to talk about it, I can't really say anything about it. I will, however, say that they do owe me money. And, no, I am no longer affiliated with them. Also, TrauMMA Combat has released a new Korean Zombie shirt. So, if anyone is interested in supporting me in that way, definitely but the new shirt from TrauMMA Combat.
Why do you think people like you so much as a fighter?
Honestly, I think I've been lucky. Whether it's the "Twister", or the seven-second KO, I've been lucky enough to be in some great fights that the fans seem to have really enjoyed it. I don't know if I can really take credit or that I did something special to make those things happen.
Finally, you were recently featured in GQ Magazine. How did that come about?
GQ in Korea contacted me directly. There were only a couple of pictures, so I don't know if a lot of people saw it, to be honest with you. A little while back, I was on the cover of the Maxim here in Korea and that definitely had more of an impact, because it was the cover.
Also, I heard that there are lots of Korean Americans in Virginia, so hopefully, there will be a lot of Korean flags in the arena for my fight with Dustin Poirier.