Chan Sung-jung says MMA can have a positive impactChan Sung-jung says MMA can have a positive impact (AFP Photo/Jeff BOTTARI)
Seoul (AFP) - Asia's highest-ranked mixed martial artist said fighters must remember they're idols for children as he slammed last week's "shocking" scenes after Conor McGregor's defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Chan "The Korean Zombie" Sung-jung said the post-fight violence, when Nurmagomedov and his team attacked McGregor and his entourage in images beamed around the world, had set back attempts to clean up MMA's image.
"We should be inspiring kids and not shocking them," the Seoul-based featherweight said ahead of this week's Angel's Fighting MMA event in Seoul, where all profits pay medical expenses for terminally ill children.
"As martial artists we are role models," added Chan, who is ranked 10th in the world by the UFC in his weight division.
"Hyping up the fight is understandable but violence outside the cage is a no-go. We are adults and should remember the impact what we do has on kids."
Chan was speaking at his Korean Zombie Gym in Seoul as he prepared to fly out for his next fight, against the UFC's former champion and third-ranked featherweight Frankie "The Answer" Edgar.
The bout will headline the UFC's 25th-anniversary fight card in Denver on November 10, reflecting Chan's stature and the sport's global reach.
If he finds a way past the American veteran, the Korean fighter is expected to get a second shot at the featherweight title –- and the chance to become the UFC's first Asian world champion.
"Fighters are emerging from all over Asia, and from South Korea," said Chan. "The image of the sport has improved and it is up to us as martial artists to make sure this continues."
- A 'positive' force -
Chan's "Zombie" tag comes from his ability to keep moving forward into battle, even when under a barrage, and he is level-headed about the challenge posed by Edgar.
"I know he will try to wear me down, try to exhaust me, but I am ready for that," said Chan. "My stamina is very good."
Chan seemed destined for the top after joining the UFC in 2011, after starring on the domestic scene in South Korea.
He went 3-0 before losing to then-featherweight champion Jose "Scarface" Aldo, dislocating his shoulder throwing a huge right before losing via TKO in the fourth.
Following South Korea's compulsory military service and a knee injury, Chan exploded back on to the scene with a first-round knockout of Dennis "The Menace" Bermudez in February 2017.
Now with a career record of 14 wins and four losses, Chan will be faced with his biggest challenge yet against Edgar (23-6-1), the 36-year-old former UFC lightweight champion.
But Chan said his time away from the cage –- which also brought the birth of three children, aged four to three months –- had put life into perspective.
At the Angel's Fighting event, Chan was in the corner for a fighter from his gym. He said such charity initiatives showed MMA could have a positive impact.
"In the past the image (of MMA) has not been great but we are seeing this change, and everything is looking positive," said Chan.
"A while back I used to fight for myself, for fame. But now family overrides that and I am fighting for my family."