Chan Sung Jung’s fighting career may have been shelved for nearly four years, but that doesn’t mean “The Korean Zombie” has dropped his dream of becoming the UFC’s featherweight champ. So, what could a win over Yair Rodriguez this Saturday at UFC Denver do for the 31-year-old veteran?
Jung will battle Rodriguez in the headliner of this weekend’s event, however, initially, TKZ was supposed to face Frankie Edgar. The latter had to withdraw due to injury. The bout will mark the first time Jung has fought since he took out Dennis Bermudez in February 2017. That fight was Jung’s first since 2013, as the former title challenger was sidelined due to injuries, and then mandatory military service in his native, South Korea.
Well, while speaking to the media this week, Jung had this to say about Rodriguez, as well as his hopes for this new stage of his career (quotes via MMA Junkie):
“Yair has his own style,” Jung said. “He stands out. Because he’s in the same featherweight division I knew one day I would have to face him. …
“I believe every fighter, they go through some sort of a phase,” Jung added while referring to his time away from fighting “It was tough for me at first, but I’m coming back stronger, and if that’s going to drag me down, how am I able to fight?”
“I think Max will stay as the champion for quite a long time. So, I’m going to go up there and catch him.”
Now, when you look at the rankings and see Rodriguez in the #15 spot at 145, and Jung ranked #10, one could argue that it’s too premature to be talking about the latter’s title shot pursuits. First things first, Jung needs to defeat Rodriquez, who is a ridiculously dangerous and explosive striker. If Jung does defeat Rodriguez, it’s very likely he’ll still be on the outside of the top five, looking in.
But, TKZ’s circumstances are somewhat unique, in comparison to other veteran fighters who are climbing the 145 ranks. First off, Jung has long been a fan favorite, and the fact he’s been booked for main events in both of his fights since returning from military service is evidence of that. It’s important to remember that initially, Jung was supposed to fight Edgar, the #3 ranked 145’er. So, clearly, the UFC is interested in getting TKZ big fights.
Further, the only person to defeat Jung since 2010 is now former champ, Jose Aldo. So, it’s not like Jung slipped down the ranks due to a series of losses. He did so because of inactivity. In other words, if Jung can defeat Rodriguez in impressive fashion this Saturday, TKZ could very well be one more win away from a title shot.