Chan Sung Jung sent a thunderous reminder to the rest of the UFC featherweight division on Saturday night, knocking out Dennis Bermudez with a scorching right uppercut to score a much-needed first-round finish at UFC Fight Night 104.
The performance signaled an end to Jung’s near four-year layoff from fighting due to mandatory military service requirements in his native South Korea. And after such resounding comeback win, “The Korean Zombie” is firmly back on the radar of the UFC brass.
“I don’t know if anybody in the history of the fight game has come back after a three-plus year layoff and looked as good as he did tonight,” UFC president Dana White said on the FOX Sports 1 post-fight show.
“Very impressive, and he pumped some excitement into UFC Korea. (UFC Owner) Ari (Emanuel) and I have been talking about going to Korea, so I think tonight he sealed the deal.”
At the time of his UFC departure, Jung, 29, was considered one of the top contenders in the featherweight division. A trio of victories in 2011-12 over the likes of Leonard Garcia, Dustin Poirier, and Mark Hominick carried Jung into an unsuccessful bid for the 145-pound title against Jose Aldo, but Jung then found himself stuck on the sidelines for several ensuing years in order to fulfill the mandatory military service required of male South Koreans.
Over that time, the landscape of the UFC featherweight ranks changed dramatically with the rise of a new crop of young talent led by Conor McGregor, all while Jung was forced to sit and watch the division move on without him.
The UFC also held its first show ever in South Korea in Jung’s absence — UFC Fight Night 79 in Nov. 2015 — and Jung admitted this week to MMA Fighting that it was “really, really tough” to watch his countrymen compete without being able to step into the cage himself.
But that situation has now changed, and it took less than three minutes at UFC Fight Night 104 for “The Korean Zombie” to remind the UFC why he was once such a feared featherweight.
“Let me tell you what, Dennis Bermudez is as nasty a fighter as you will ever face, and he came in tonight with all the advantages. And the Zombie, he performed again,” White said. “This guy is phenomenal athlete. He’s a great fighter. And man, is he a finisher.”