2010 was a tumultuous year for Korean Top Team fighter Chan Sung Jung.
With a 10-1 record and coming off a strong showing in Sengoku's Featherweight Gran Prix, he got his shot in the big leagues with a WEC contract. Debuting against Leonard Garcia, the pair turned in an electric performance that many deemed "Fight of the Decade", though the slugfest was slightly blemished by the controversial decision for Garcia. This turned out to be even more of a reason to rally behind the brawler who truly fought like a "Korean Zombie": he became an internet sensation, he defined the type of "die on your shield" attitude fans respect most, and even Dana White was seen flaunting a Korean Zombie t-shirt.
His momentum came to a screeching halt versus George Roop at WEC 51, when -- despite having never been knocked out in a fight or training -- Jung was clipped with a perfectly timed high-kick from Roop for a second round TKO loss.
After learning that Chan Sung Jung was in the U.S. training for a month with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male, The Garv.com checked in with him on the rehabilitation of the knee injury that forced him out of a match with Rani Yahya, how his stint at Team Alpha Male was going, and what fans should expect from the new and improved "Korean Zombie 2.0".
Dallas Winston: You withdrew from the bout with Rani Yahya due to a knee injury. Can you explain what happened, and how it's feeling now?
The Korean Zombie: "It's an old injury that I've had since Sengoku. I have problems with it on and off, and I think I was just overtraining and sprained my knee. I took some time off and rehabbed it and I'm feeling fine now."
DW: Explain what you felt after losing to George Roop and being knocked out for the first time ever?
TKZ: "It was a new experience and it was definitely tough for me. I was really caught off guard. There were some pretty dark times in the first few weeks after that fight. But, you live and learn. I think in a way, it was good for me. That fight forced me to deal with some flaws in myself and in my game. It gave me a lot of motivation to work on some of my weak points."
DW: You usually begin a fight with a lot of energy, but it looked like you might have been missing that "spark" or trying to be more methodical vs. Roop?
TKZ: "I don't know if I've ever had a fight where I started off that slow. I really was kind of in a haze. I think before the fight I had so much on my mind -- I had put so much pressure on myself to win, to put on a good show and try to live up to everyone's expectations -- that I had no energy left for the fight itself. When I look back at that fight, I don't really know what I was thinking."
DW: Even though you lost to Leonard Garcia, the fans rallied behind you and you became somewhat of a MMA sensation. How was the Roop-loss different than Garcia?
TKZ: "Of course, the people around me were all very supportive after the fight, but I know that it was a big disappointment for the average fan. After a fight like the Garcia bout, the fans want to see the same kind of action and I think a lot of fans and critics just thought that I was all hype after my loss to Roop."
DW: You are currently spending some time with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male. How did that partnership come about? Did you approach them, or vice-versa?
TKZ: "Actually, my manager arranged the whole thing. We had first met Urijah in Sacramento at WEC 48 (at the Garcia bout) and seen him a few times after that. In speaking with him, my manager said that I was interested in working on my ground game some more and Urijah invited me to come train with Team Alpha Male. Right now, Team Alpha Male is really the top of the heap in the lighter weight classes in the MMA world, with guys like Urijah, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, and Danny Castillo. I mean, they really have a bunch of top guys. Elite MMA, wrestlers, everything. So, I think it's really going to help me out a lot.
Also, a big part of me wanting to come here was to experience living in the U.S. and training in a different style than what I'm used to. I have no intention of leaving Korean Top Team, but I think that every fighter should want to learn new things. I want to learn new techniques and styles, different diet techniques, and I want to improve my English. I just think it's a great opportunity for me all around. So far Urijah and all of the guys have been really great. Today, I worked with one of the grappling instructors, Dustin Akbari, and he's amazing. I'm hoping to learn a lot of from him, as well as all of the other guys on the team.
DW: Give me some details: how long are you training there, who are you working out with, and is it your ground game you're focusing on?
I just got here a few days ago. I'll be here for a month. I'll be working with everyone. I'm specifically looking to sharpen up my wrestling, since they have so many great wrestlers here. However, they have great strikers and BJJ guys as well, so I'm looking to learn whatever I can while I'm here.
DW: You're known (and adored) for being a wild brawler, and it's also brought you success. How much of that style will you keep?
Right after the Roop loss, I was thinking about re-working my whole game. But, as time goes on, I think that the fans want to me to keep my original style, and I think that once I get in the Octagon, it will naturally come back to me (to an extent). I'm definitely looking to make some changes. I think any intelligent fighter is always looking to fine tune, to improve. If you don't, the sport will pass you by. So, the "Zombie style" will probably still be there, but hopefully just a better version of it. Maybe Korean Zombie 2.0?
DW: I like it. What can we expect from "The Korean Zombie 2.0" in the Octagon?
TKZ: "A win."
DW: Any idea on "who" or "when" for your next fight?
TKZ: "It looks like I'll be fighting at the end of May, but I don't have an opponent yet. I'll let you know as soon as I do! I'm anxious to find out, so I know who I'll be training for. Whoever it is, they're going to have their hands full!"
DW: We'll all be looking forward to it. Feel free to leave any closing comments.
TKZ: "I can't tell you exactly how I'm going to fight, whether it's going to be the 'Korean Zombie' that everyone expects to see. Even I don't know that, at this point. We'll find out when the opening bell rings. But, as long as the fans are out there watching, I promise to put on the best show I can for you! And, as always, thanks to the Garv and Dallas Winston for their unending support!"
The Garv.com wishes to thank Chan Sung Jung and his manager, Brian Rhee, for taking the time to do this interview.
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Original Chan Sung Jung photograph from CombatLifestyle.com