South Korea is a martial arts powerhouse that has consistently supplied the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, the UFC메이저사이트, with top-level fighters such as Chung “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung, Kim “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun, and Choi “Korean Superboy” Doo Ho.
Last year’s Road to UFC produced two winners in Lee Jung-young and Park Hyun-sung, and this year’s two events at the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai, China on July 27 and 28 will feature nine Korean fighters.
“We’re looking forward to seeing Korean fighters at this year’s event as well,” Kevin Zhang, president of UFC Asia, said in a video interview with Yonhap News Agency on Nov. 22, after successfully organizing the Road to UFC, a competition aimed at discovering UFC fighters for the Asian region.
Kevin Zhang, a Chinese-American, started his career in the office of the North American Football League (NFL), North America’s most popular professional sports organization, and now serves as the UFC’s regional president for Asia, a region that accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population.
Kevin Jang said he would love to see another UFC event in South Korea and is looking into ways to return to the country as soon as possible.
He also mentioned that between Korean fighters Chung Chan Sung and Kim Dong Hyun, Chung Chan Sung is the more meaningful fighter as he has had two title fights.
Below is a one-on-one with Kevin Chang.
Kevin Chang, President of UFC Asia
[Courtesy of the UFC. Resale and DB prohibited]
— What made you decide to move from the NFL to the upstart UFC 13 years ago?
I saw the potential for the UFC to become a major global sport. When I joined, the UFC was just starting to expand. My job at the NFL was to distribute content in Asia, and I brought that experience to the UFC to work on expanding the Asian market. I realized that the UFC was going to be more successful in Asia than the NFL, and that’s why I took the job.
— How important is Asia to the UFC?
It’s very important. Asia has a huge population and a growing mixed martial arts fandom. Asia is going to have a huge impact in the future. The thing I’m most proud of as President of Asia is building an Asian team in the UFC. Externally, we had our first event in Shanghai, China, and our first events in Seoul and Busan, South Korea.
— How successful was last year’s Road to UFC?
It was a huge success. We had fighters from all over Asia. (North American) fighters have had pathways to the UFC, like The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and Dana White’s Contender Series, but Asia hasn’t had a Road to UFC until now. South Korea and Japan have traditionally been MMA powerhouses, and the organization has seen potential in fighters from India and Indonesia. In the past, we’ve sourced fighters directly from Asian regional organizations, but some weren’t ready. Asian fighters needed a chance to gain experience before they could compete in the UFC.
Kevin Chang during a video interview with Yonhap News Agency.
[Photo courtesy of UFC, not for resale or DB]
— Did the Road to UFC have an impact on the 10 countries in Southeast Asia that signed broadcast deals last year?
The UFC puts on 42 events a year, including Fight Night and pay-per-view (PPV) events. When a country has a fighter who is successful on the world stage, the popularity of the sport grows. (Road to UFC’s success in Southeast Asia) led to a broadcast rights deal. Our goal is to develop fighters in Asia who have both charisma and skill.
— On whether Chung and Kim did that in South Korea.
Dong Hyun Kim was a top fighter, but he decided to retire early. Chung had two title fights. He lost both times, but he proved to the world that he can compete with the best, so I think he means a lot more than Dong Hyun Kim. His performance in the UFC was really impressive, and his fighting style, nicknamed “Korean Zombie,” made it even more impactful. He’s very tough, never gives up, and keeps pushing forward, which is why fans not only in Korea but around the world love him. With this style and skill, a superstar is born. He’s one of the best fighters in the UFC and definitely a candidate for the UFC Hall of Fame.
— Lee Jung-Young and Park Hyun-Sung won the first season of The Road to UFC. What are the strengths of Korean fighters?
Lee was the strongest and toughest in Season 1. I thought he was the most ready for the UFC, and it will be interesting to see how his UFC debut goes. Park Hyun Sung is a really good fighter. He was coached by Chung Chan Sung and fought tough opponents. Korea has produced fighters like Chung Chan Sung, Choi Doo Ho, Jung Daun, and Kim Dong Hyun. They are skilled, durable, and have a strong desire to win. I think these characteristics are rooted in Korean culture. They made Koreans very proud with their great style of fighting.
The UFC’s UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai.
[Photo courtesy of UFC. Resale and DB prohibited]
— What’s the biggest change and what are you looking forward to in Season 2 of The Road to UFC, which starts on Aug. 28.
Results are never predictable. Even in Season 1, I was quite surprised by how many results deviated from my predictions. All I can say is that we’re going to put on a great event. We have the experience from Season 1, so this time it will be even more successful. Plus, it’s the first time we’re hosting the event at the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai, which is very exciting. It’s our first chance to test the advanced video technology we’ve built. We’ll be broadcasting everything from Shanghai, including video, and it will be produced over 10,000 kilometers away in Las Vegas, USA.
— How far along are plans to bring UFC events to South Korea?
We’re still working on it. I can’t wait to go to Korea. The Korean fans are hungry for UFC events. The demand is there. The problem is that the UFC is limited to 42 events a year. More than half of them are in the U.S., and we have events in the U.K., Brazil, Canada, South America, and Africa. That’s a lot of places for the UFC to go. Let’s bring it to Korea as soon as possible.