Denis Kang is a Canadian MMA fighter of Korean and French descent whose biggest career wins came in Japan. But he's getting ready to fight in front of his largest American television audience to date when he steps into the Octagon at UFC 105 in England in a fight that will be shown on Spike TV, and he says he's excited about the opportunity to show his skills to a large number of fans who have never seen him fight before.
In an interview with FanHouse, Kang discussed his upcoming fight with Michael Bisping in Bisping's hometown, the reasons he believes the UFC would be wise to stage a show in South Korea, and his thoughts on some of the best moments of his 46-fight career. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: What kind of fight are you expecting from Michael Bisping?
Denis Kang; I think he's going to come at me. But I think he's going to find out coming at me doesn't work, and that's when he's going to get on his bike and start backing away. The big question is whether Bisping can get over his last fight.
That last fight was a brutal knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson. Do you think that will still affect him four months later, either mentally or physically?
Denis Kang: It can. It depends on the person. I mean, that was a really bad knockout. It can affect you psychologically. Some people never come back from something like that. I hope he uses it to get better and comes back and give me a hell of a fight. That's what I want and that's what I'm preparing for.
He'll obviously have the crowd on his side, does that affect you at all?
No. Not at all. Most of my fights have been in hostile territory -- I've fought guys in their hometowns before.
You've fought all over the world -- U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Ireland, now England -- where do you think the best MMA fans are?
Oh, Montreal for sure. I love the fans in Canada and especially Montreal.
You've been quite the world traveler. How many languages do you speak?
Four. French is my first language and English is my second, and I've learned Spanish and Portuguese.
What is your ethnic background?
My father is Korean and my mother is French.
Do you speak Korean?
Not enough to have a conversation. I can order a beer and say hello and goodbye and thank you in Korean.
You've had 12 MMA fights in South Korea. How's the MMA scene there?
It's good. When I first got there (in 2003) it wasn't that big, but it quickly grew. You're going to see a lot of fighters coming out of Korea in the next few years, especially at the lighter weights. A lot of younger people are taking to the sport.
Which martial arts styles are most popular in South Korea?
Right now there are some good jiu jitsu schools. Korea also has a good amateur boxing program. And, of course, there's taekwondo, but taekwondo isn't as popular as it used to be because of MMA. Taekwondo is mostly for kids over there.
Do you think the UFC should do an event in South Korea?
Yes. Please, go to South Korea. If the UFC wants to conquer Asia, they have to go to South Korea first. The three Asian nations they'd want to go to are Korea, Japan and China. China is the big one that everyone really wants, but it's hard to do business there. As far as the culture and the media, the UFC would be best to go to South Korea first, and a lot of Chinese people would get into it from Korean media.
Who are the most popular fighters among South Korean fans?
Myself, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Dong Sik Yoon and Dong Hyun Kim are probably the four most popular.
You lost to Akiyama in Korea in 2007. Would you like to fight him again now that you're both in the UFC?
Of course, I'd love to. If the opportunity presents itself I'd definitely like to do it.
How do you view where you are in the middleweight division right now?
I think I'm in the top 10 as far as my fighting ability, but I think that based on my record right now I'm probably considered outside the top 10 until I beat Bisping.
Have you given much thought to who you might fight after Bisping?
No, not really. I haven't made any long-term planning.
I've heard a lot of people say Chael Sonnen makes sense for you next. What would you think of that fight?
I'd love it. That would be agreat fight.
Is middleweight the best weight class for you?
Definitely. I could try to gain some weight and fight at 205, but I'd be really small, and there's no way I could get down to 170.
What's your walking-around weight?
Is making 185 hard for you?
Not at all. In my entire career, more than 40 fights, I've never missed weight. I've never even had to step onto the scale a second time.
What would you say is the biggest win of your MMA career?
I would have to say it was beating Ninja Rua and Amar Suloev (in 2006) in the Pride Grand Prix.
Those were the first two rounds of a tournament you ultimately lost in the final of, against Kazuo Misaki. Was that loss in the final your biggest disappointment?
Not really, because the thing about that fight is I kept fighting through the last reserve of stamina that I had. That was really, really tough. I had a torn bicep, I had already fought once that night, and I still gave him a pretty close fight.
I also wanted to ask you about another one of your tournament losses: Last year you were beaten by Gegard Mousasi in the first round of the Dream middleweight tournament. At the time most American fans didn't know much about him but now, through Dream and Strikeforce, he's become quite well known among Americans. What are your thoughts on how far he's come as a fighter?
Oh, he's a great fighter. I don't think he can make 185 anymore -- he's huge -- but he's a really good fighter, one of the best.
You've fought in a number of promotions all over the world, but did you always know you wanted to fight in the UFC?
Yes. I really enjoyed all those years in Japan and South Korea, but I knew I wanted to fight in the UFC because that's the best in MMA.
How big a disappointment was your loss to Alan Belcher in your UFC debut? You controlled the fight most of the way but he caught you in a guillotine choke.
I didn't prepare as well as I should have for that fight because of an injury, but the bottom line is I took the fight, I fought to the best of my ability, and when I made a mistake he caught me. Obviously I wish I would have won, but I think after losing I came away better than I had been.
After that you got your first UFC win in Montreal. How important was that to you?
Very. I love fighting in front of my fans in Monteral.
Do you prefer fighting in a cage or a ring?
It's hard to say. I like both, but I guess right now I'd say I prefer a cage because that's what I'm doing all my training in. If you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you a ring.
What do you think the future holds for you in MMA? You're 32 and already have a lot of fights under your belt. How long will you keep doing it?
That all depends on how I feel. I hope I can continue at least another three or four years, and then hopefully open up a gym somewhere when I retire. I'll always be doing something in MMA.