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'The Korean Zombie' talks military hiatus, return to UFC, 145 title picture, more

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A familiar face will return to the biggest stage in sports this weekend in Houston.

No, not Tom Brady, rather Chan Sung Jung.

"The Korean Zombie" hasn't fought in the UFC since Aug. 2013 due to mandatory military obligations in his native South Korea, but he'll finally return on Saturday night against Dennis Bermudez in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Houston.

We caught up with the popular featherweight recently via e-mail to talk about his military duties and his much-anticipated return to the UFC.


Ariel Helwani: How would describe your military experience?
Chan Sung Jung: To be honest, it was pretty uneventful.

What were your day-to-day duties like?

Because all of the injuries and surgeries that I had from MMA, I was given a government office job. So, basically, I was like a civil servant. After basic training, I was able to live at home and commute to work.

Were you able to train in MMA while away?

Yes, since I started work early in the morning, I was able to finish early enough to make it to team practice most days. I didn't train as intensely as I normally would have, so I focused more heavily on improving my skills in the different disciplines.

Did you follow the sport during your hiatus? If so, what do you think of the current state of the UFC because it's a much different place from when you last fought.

Yes, I followed things pretty closely. I think with the new ownership, the UFC is on its way to becoming a more professional, bigger sport. Also, you see more fighters who are able to leverage what they can to make more money.

How do you feel about the state of the featherweight title after the UFC stripped Conor McGregor and gave it to Jose Aldo?

That doesn't concern me too much. I kind of hope Aldo moves up to lightweight and beats McGregor. [While] I actually like both of them, as fighters, since I fought Aldo, I like him a little bit more.

Did you always plan on coming back or was there a chance you might not have?

I was always planning on coming back. I had no thoughts of retirement. Especially since I have two daughters now, I have to take care of my family.

How difficult was it to see the UFC come to South Korea in 2015 and not be able to fight on the card?

It was really, really tough. I went to the event, and I don't think I've ever seen a crowd that excited throughout the whole event. The atmosphere was electric all night. I can't wait for the next UFC event in Korea.

Were you surprised that the UFC put you in the main event in your comeback fight? And if so, are you happy with that?

I didn't really think about it too much beforehand. But, I'm glad that they think enough of me to put me in the main event against a guy like Dennis Bermudez after such a long layoff.

Do you like the match-up against Dennis Bermudez as a comeback fight?

It doesn't really matter to me who I fight, but I was hoping for a fight against someone ranked right around where Bermudez is, so in that regard, I'm happy about the match-up.

What do you think about the rise in popularity of your fellow countryman Doo Ho Choi?

That's something I knew was going to happen even before he went to the UFC. In the Korean MMA community, we all knew he was going to make a big splash. Especially for me, since I train with him occasionally, I knew he was going to be a star.

Part of your popularity in the USA came from your Zombie shirt but now you have to wear Reebok. How do you feel about that?

I feel like my nickname has had more of an effect on my popularity than the shirt itself. I just wish that the Reebok would print "Korean Zombie" on my uniform instead of Jung, but I doubt that they would.

Are you more nervous for this fight because it's been 3.5 years since you last fought? And do you expect to have ring rust?

It's been a while, but since I was able to continue to workout and stay in shape, I'm not too worried about it. The time away was good for me in that I was able to heal a lot of old injuries and really improve on a lot of my skills, so in that way, it may have been a blessing in disguise. I guess we'll find out when I get into the Octagon.

How far away from the title picture do you think a win over Bermudez puts you?

If I get a win over Bermudez, I'm hoping one more win will get me a title shot. Of course, we'll have to see how everything goes, but that would be my ideal scenario.

What did you miss most about MMA?

The thing I missed the most was being in the Octagon. Hands down.

Were you able to keep up with all the messages of fans asking about your return? If so, what would you like to say them?

I did see messages from the fans from time to time. I always appreciate the support I've gotten from the fans around the world. I hope that this fight lives up to everyone's expectations.