The pressure is always ratcheted up for any fighter coming off a loss but Dan Ige couldn’t have scripted a better way to bounce back than his performance at UFC Vegas 21.
After engaging in a five-round war with Calvin Kattar this past July but coming up short in a decision, Ige was booked in a fight against Gavin Tucker, who accepted the bout after former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Hall suffered an injury. Tucker was riding a three-fight win streak including a pair of submission wins and he sought to build on that momentum by taking on a top-10 ranked featherweight.
Ige put an end to Tucker’s ambitions with a single punch just 22 seconds into the fight as the 29-year-old Hawaiian returned to the win column in devastating fashion.
“Literally the best case scenario that could have happened,” Ige told MMA Fighting. “Baby’s still in wife’s tummy, come home with the win, I’m healthy. I took a long time [off], I mean eight months, it went by pretty fast actually but to a lot of people that’s a long time. I just spent time getting better in every aspect of the game.
“I’ve said before, just literally improved everything. I didn’t get to show all that. I’m in the best shape of my life. I didn’t get to show that either. But it is the best case scenario.”
According to Ige, he was actually a little downtrodden earlier in the night after learning that one of his all-time favorite boxers “Marvelous” Marvin Haggler had died. Rather than allow that news to weigh him down, Ige decided to use Haggler as inspiration as he prepared to leave for the UFC Apex for the fight against Tucker.
“In tribute, I played some of his highlights before we got into the van to head over to the arena,” Ige explained. “I watched his highlights and he’s just a vicious finisher. The game plan was to really go out there and just go and flow and jab and I had Hagler in my mind to just come out and jab, jab, jab. Use a lot of my switch stances.
“But before you knew it, he ran in with his head and I hit him with the right hand and I felt his soul leave his body. That was it.”
The vicious knockout was definitely one of the best moments of Ige’s career to date and it earned him a $50,000 bonus for Performance of the Night.
With a baby on the way, Ige will definitely put that money to good use but he’s hoping to fill his financial coffers even more with his next fight.
Just moments after he laid waste to Tucker, the featherweight contender turned his attention towards a potential showdown with “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, who had actually mentioned him as a possible opponent just a few days earlier during a video blog.
“It makes total sense and the funny thing is I didn’t even know he said that in an interview,” Ige revealed when discussing his call out. “Someone sent me the article after the fight where he said ‘Gavin Tucker and Dan Ige are fighting this weekend, if Dan Ige wins, he could be my next opponent.’
“I didn’t even read that but ‘Korean Zombie’ is somebody I’ve watched for a long time. I’m a big fan. But I just feel like his time is coming to an end and it’s my time now.”
Jung is well known for his highlight reel performances, which includes wins over opponents such as Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and Dustin Poirier. He’s also taken home performance bonuses in four of his last five fights and Ige believes that’s the perfect combination with his own style to almost guarantee he’s leaving the fight with some extra money in his pocket.
“I’m the Hawaiian Zombie. So it’s going to be ‘The Korean Zombie’ vs. ‘The Hawaiian Zombie,’” Ige said. “It just makes a lot of sense. No disrespect to the guy. He actually congratulated me on my Instagram. He said ‘congratulations, I know who you are now’ with the crying face emoji. It was pretty funny. The sound of it just sounds like a great, fun entertaining fight for everyone. He’s a zombie, I’m a zombie. I’ve never been finished. I think that would be an incredible fight not only for myself but for the fans, for the company. It puts me in a good position.
“It will be fun. I watch pretty much every episode of ‘The Walking Dead.’ I think I know how to take out a zombie.”
When it comes to timing, Ige isn’t going to put a deadline on booking the fight against “The Korean Zombie” mostly because with a child on the way, he can’t really predict what his life will look like a few months from now.
That said, Ige has never declined a call when the UFC has asked him to step up for a fight and if they ask him to face Jung next, it’s tough to imagine he’d ever pass that up.
“I am healthy,” Ige said. “My hand feels great. It wasn’t even the hard punch. The hard punch that was coming was the left. But I’d say it’s hard to tell right now because I really don’t know what my life’s going to be like.
“But my wife understands this is my job. I’m entering my prime right now and with a KO like that, I have good momentum going right now.”