When Dan Ige called for a fight against Chan Sung Jung, he immediately touted it as “The Hawaiian Zombie” against “The Korean Zombie.”
Jung’s credentials in legendary wars are well documented, which is why his nickname as The Korean Zombie is so befitting. But Ige is more than happy to test his toughness and durability against anybody in the featherweight division.
That said, now that Ige stands just days away from a marquee showdown against Jung, he’s not looking for a “Fight of the Night” award. If anything, he’s curious to see if Jung can really take the kind of punishment he’s looking to dish out on Saturday in Las Vegas.
“Honestly, from day one, I’ve been preparing for this fight like I’m embracing zombie apocalypse mentality,” Ige told MMA Fighting. “I’m preparing myself every single day for the apocalypse, and the apocalypse is June 19. I’m 100 percent ready for it. I’m ready for it right now.
“He’s been through a lot of wars, he can take punishment. But there’s a difference, and I really think there’s a difference in my power and the way I can touch someone and put them out. I’ve always known I’ve had that ability. I’ve never gotten to show it except in my last fight.”
In Ige’s most recent appearance inside the octagon, he demolished Gavin Tucker with a vicious knockout just 22 seconds into the opening round. That served as Ige’s second finish by knockout or TKO in the UFC, but he knows he’s capable of so much more.
Ige hopes Jung will come at him with the same kind of aggression and offensive-minded behavior that made him one of the most popular fighters in the UFC.
“If he comes at me and fights me the way he does and wants to brawl the way he does, then he will get knocked out cold,” Ige said. “There’s no what if, can he take my punishment? No, he can’t take my punishment. I’m not going to fight a 50/50 fight with him. It’s going to be a fun fight, but it’s going to be a fun fight for me.
“It may be a war, but it may be a one-sided victory as well, because I’m just 100 percent prepared. I’m ready to go, and I’m going to take it to him.”
Ige had a lot of reasons to ask for the fight against The Korean Zombie, with the most obvious being a chance to take out an established veteran who only seems to fall to champions or top contenders.
Over the past decade, the only three fighters to claim wins over Jung are former UFC featherweight king Jose Aldo, current title contender Brian Ortega, and top prospect Yair Rodriguez, the latter of whom pulled off a miraculous last-second comeback to win that fight.
That kind of reputation and pedigree are what Ige wants for himself, which is why he knows beating “The Korean Zombie” is such a huge deal for his own career.
“As much as this is the fight game, this is a business,” Ige explained. “The Korean Zombie is a big move in my business. Establishing myself as a top-five fighter in the world. Establishing myself as a title contender. You’re always one good fight away from a title shot or a No. 1 contender fight. This is it. This is my opportunity. I have to go out there and make a statement.
“I have to put on a performance, especially the fact that he went to a decision with Brian Ortega. That motivates me to go out there and put on an even greater performance. I want to get something exciting, a big finish, a KO, a submission or complete domination. That’s literally the only way I see this fight. No disrespect of course to him but he’s in the way of me obtaining my goal and my title. That’s all I have to do, go out there and win and then I’m established. I’m right there in the title picture with the other big names like Max [Holloway] and Yair [Rodriguez] and [Alexander] Volkanovski and [Brian] Ortega.”
Ige can also take a quick look at the landscape at featherweight to understand just how much of his future is riding on this fight.
Over the next few months, many of the best fighters in the world at 145 pounds will be competing, including former titleholder Max Holloway taking on Rodriguez as well as current champion Alexander Volkanovski defending his belt against Ortega.
In order to earn a title shot or a No. 1 contender’s fight, Ige has to prove he’s on the same level as those four names — and there’s no better way to do it than running through The Korean Zombie.
“This is my destiny,” Ige said. “I go and beat the Zombie, everything is there for me. I’m one fight away or maybe even a title shot, you never know in this day and age. If I go out and put on a great performance, that could get me a title shot with the way the division plays out, you never know. My focus is the Zombie and I’m 100 percent focused on that, but I’m 100 percent focused on winning. I know winning will earn me the next step. It may earn me a No. 1 contender match. It may earn me a title shot. At the end of the day, I have to go out there and win and it will put me right there in the top-five.
“I’m the first fight, I’m the first one up. I feel that pressure where I have to make the big splash. I’m the first guy to jump off the cliff.”