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With Help of Fans, 'Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung Moves Past Painful Loss

When the adrenaline finally wore off, Chan Sung Jung was left with pain. The physical pain of the war he'd waged with Leonard Garcia at April's WEC: Aldo vs. Faber event was one thing. The hand injury was going to heal. But the fact that he'd lost after such a display of granite jaw and iron will? Unlike injuries, that could not be fixed.

"I've got a really strong sense of pride, so when I lost, it really hurt a lot," Jung told MMA Fighting through his interpreter Brian "Shug" Rhee. "It was something painful for quite a while."

But an interesting phenomenon was quickly developing around him, soothing his soul in a time of distress. As quickly as Jung had blazed into the WEC, poured his heart into three rounds of combat theater and walked away with sadness, thousands of new fans were rallying to his side. In just 15 minutes, the "Korean Zombie" had infected the masses.

On message boards and Twitter, fans voiced their belief that Jung had in fact, won. Others didn't focus on the decision, only that Jung had provided them with the night's biggest thrill. The acclaim was seemingly universal; several MMA websites proclaimed it "Fight of the Year." Others went further: "Fight of the Decade." WEC general manager Reed Harris called it "probably the best fight I've ever seen." At the next Zuffa event (UFC 113), UFC President Dana White proudly sported a "Korean Zombie" T-shirt.



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It quickly became apparent that even in losing, Jung had co-authored a page in MMA lore. WEC 48 had been transformed into the night of the "Korean Zombie," at least lessening the ever-present sting of defeat.

"It really helps a lot to see the response and interest from the fans," Jung said. "It's been a huge help. The warmness I've received has been absolutely incredible, especially since I've only fought one fight in the States. I never really expected the interest and enthusiasm to be as great as it has been, but it's been incredible."

Jung's cause was no doubt moved along in part by his catchy nickname. Coined by his teammates at Korean Top Team, it seemed to perfectly encapsulate its owner.

As it always is with the Zombie, he seemed nearly impervious to pain even as Garcia emptied his arsenal. Throughout the 15 minutes of action, each man loaded up on knockout shots. According to the stunning Compustrike stats, both Garcia and Jung landed 70 power strikes. Both men seemed incapable of retreat, though as Jung readily pointed out in the press conference after the fight, Garcia blinked first, trying a takedown in the second round.

While Garcia came into the bout relatively well known to U.S. MMA fans, Jung was known only to the sport's most ardent watchers. That Garcia could fight at such a pace was no surprise. That Jung could keep up, and win most of the exchanges seemed unfathomable. Yet it's the only way Jung's ever known.

"It's just always been my style, never something I tried to develop or worked on," Jung said. "It's always been my fighting style to just really fight all-out. All the skills I've developed around that are skills to build around the style that's natural-born."

He's not lying. So built-in is the ability to absorb pain and march forward that when Jung recently decided to address long-standing deviated septum and sinus problems, his doctor informed him after surgery that Jung had actually broken his nose several times without realizing it. In typical Zombie style, Jung shrugs at the thought.

While he seemingly feels no pain, he can be injured. During the Garcia fight, he suffered soft-tissue damage to his wrist that has him working through physical therapy. Coupled with the nasal surgery that is still healing, Jung likely won't be back in the cage anytime soon, though he is itching to return.

"There's nobody that wants to get into the octagon more than me," he said. "I want to get in there as soon as possible. That said, I want to be as prepared as possible. I want to be able to go 100 percent and show the fans the best fight possible, as opposed to going in early just to go in and fight and being completely unprepared."

It is quite possible that no fighter has ever provided as much bang for the buck as Jung, who earned a purse of just $5,000, according to the California State Athletic Commission. For his gutsy effort, he also received a $65,000 Fight of the Night bonus.

For now, Jung will rest and heal. With the help of the fans, he has moved past the negative feelings that came along with losing on the judges scorecards. At the recent UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas, his T-shirt was everywhere, and fans lined up for pictures and autographs. It was a veritable "Zombieland."

"I had no idea it would be to this extent," he said.

And even though it was 15 minutes of fury that made him an instant phenomenon, Chan Sung Jung has different plans next time around.

"For this one," he says with a smile, "a fast knockout is better."