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After his 22-second KO of Gavin Tucker in March, No. 8 ranked featherweight Dan Ige welcomes No. 4 Chan Sung Jung back to the Octagon on Saturday after "The Korean Zombie" was last seen losing a wide unanimous decision to Brian Ortega in October. Ige tells Kevin Iole he's been watching Jung fight since he was in high school and before he even began training MMA.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey folks. I am Kevin Iole from Yahoo Sports. You know what? I got to mention, on Saturday night I kind of made a mistake on social media because I was tweeting about the new UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, and I said, this is the nicest guy in the UFC. And then guess what happened? I realized on Tuesday I'm interviewing Dan Ige, and I said, you know what? He's like, maybe the second nicest guy in the UFC because Dan Ige is the best, and I got him right now. The UFC number eight ranked featherweight who is on Saturday at APEX going to headline against the Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung. Tough fight. Dan, how's it going, my man?
DAN IGE: Great, man. That was an incredible intro, and it's an honor to be speaking to you. Yeah, it means a lot. But yeah, I feel good and I'm just I'm super happy to be here. First fight as a dad, and here we are.
KEVIN IOLE: So your son maybe has the most appropriate name for a fighter's son in Bam. Is that something to do with what kind of what you think he's going to be like in the future?
DAN IGE: I don't know. To be honest, the name actually came from my wife's dad. He was calling him Bam-Bam even before we knew the gender. So we just kind of prayed about it, and it just felt right. The moment he came out, we looked at him like, he just looked like a Bam. So yeah. I'm not going to really push him into fighting or anything. If he chooses to do so, you know, he's got a legendary name.
KEVIN IOLE: No doubt, and it can get more legendary if Dad wins the big fight on Saturday against the Zombie. And I guess I'll start there. I mean, you know he's coming off a loss to Brian Ortega, which is obviously no big thing given how great Brian Ortega is, but this is a guy that's almost a kill or be killed type guy. I think he's had two decisions in the last 11 years. So you go into this fight knowing more than likely, you're either going to finish him or he's going to finish you. Does that change the mindset when you know the fight is likely to go that way?
DAN IGE: To be honest, no. In a way, we're very similar in that I know I've had a lot of decisions in my career, but I still go in there with that same mindset, that kill or be killed mindset. I'm always looking to finish fights, and so is he, so honestly, it's a great fight on paper. It's a great fight for anyone to tune in and watch Saturday night. But I don't approach it any differently, knowing the way he fights. Honestly, I've been watching the Korean Zombie from when I was not even into MMA. I was watching him in high school, going into college. I hadn't even had a fight yet, and I was watching this guy. So it's pretty crazy.
Actually, if you break down the ring time, I actually have more ring time than the guy. So it's crazy. I have just as much experience, and I don't take that for granted. It's been great watching him over the years, but here he is now standing in front of me, and I'm not going to let that stardom-- I'm not going to look at him with that stardom. I'm just going to treat him like any other opponent and go in there and try to put him away.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, he probably has the advantage from the standpoint of he's been in with maybe better people than you've been in, a lot of really good high-level people. So do you feel like, given the guys you've been in recently, you've been on a pretty good run. The guys you've been in recently have prepared you for a guy of that ilk, a top five contender. This is the highest rated contender now you will have faced. Do you think that what you've done over the last two years when you were-- what, were you 7-1, 6-1 in that period of time-- has prepared you for this kind of challenge?
DAN IGE: Oh, 100%. I feel like every fight I've had has led me up to this moment. If I were to take this fight two years ago, maybe it wouldn't have been the best fight for me. Maybe I wouldn't have had the confidence or the skill set to handle an opponent like Zombie. But now, I have the confidence. I have the skill set. I have the cardio. I have everything I need going into this fight. I'm equipped everywhere, and I just feel nothing but confident. I feel great.
My training camp went incredible, the best I've ever felt. And you know, I say that a lot, but it's because every single camp, I take away, like, what was good and what could I have done better. I always find a little way to tweak things to make myself a little bit better, and I believe I'm at my absolute best right now. I'm 29 years old, entering my prime, and here we are. We get to face another legend, the Korean Zombie. And I'm super pumped, and I can't wait to go out there and showcase that I am capable. I am capable of beating a guy like the Zombie, and I'm capable of finishing him, too.
KEVIN IOLE: So when you say that you're getting better each time, which is always something you want to strive for, but you look back on that fight with Calvin Kattar. Calvin wins that decision, and then he goes into a fight with Max Holloway, which is a really high-profile fight on ABC. Do you look at it now like, hey, if I had what I have now then, that would have been me there? Because obviously the fight with you and Calvin was a pretty good competitive match.
DAN IGE: Yeah, you know, and I believe everything happens for a reason. MMA is all about timing, I feel like, and this is my time now. When I fought Calvin, it wasn't my time. I felt like it because I was on a six-fight win streak and I was riding the momentum, and I had everything going my way going into that fight. But at the same time, I wasn't 100% ready and where I needed to be, and that's where I am today.
I look at myself, and I prepare like a champion. So I have a champion mindset, and that's the mindset I'm going into this fight with. I don't feel like I've left any stone unturned, and literally every single fight has led me to this. The experience-- I've gone five rounds with Calvin Kattar. I went three rounds with Edson Barboza. I went in there with legends and veterans and top five fighters of the world. This is just my time, you know? It really is my time, and I'm embracing it to the fullest.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you about your last fight because it's kind of out of character for you from that standpoint. You're fighting Gavin Tucker, a guy kind of like yourself who was on the rise. Maybe he was like Dan Ige two years ago, right? A guy that just kind of turned the corner, starting to rise. You blow him out in 22 seconds. What is that feeling like when you get that? You put all that work in training camp, and you finish it like that. Can you describe the emotion you felt in the immediate aftermath of the victory?
DAN IGE: Yeah. Well, if I backtrack about a year back to July when I did lose to Kattar, it was my first time in my career where I said to myself, I'm going to actually take a moment to just go back and not take a fight right away and just get better. That's all I did for about a year, or eight months. I just worked on my skills and sharpening the sword and working on my precision and my accuracy.
I was in incredible shape going into that fight, and I didn't get to show that. And I didn't get to show my whole entire skill set, but the precision and the repetition and repetition and repetition showed that night. The first punch landed and put him out. So it was awesome.
I do go through-- you do think back like, man, I went through all that training for 22-second fight. I wish it would have went a little longer. But I was happy with the outcome because I never really got to show that. I never got to show a clean one-punch knockout, walk off knockout. And that was big for me. So that was a big moment, and that did a lot to my confidence too.
They're not saying, like, now I'm this big punch-- I'm a complete fighter. My volume has gotten so much better, my power, even my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu. I've worked everything, and I only got to show a small piece in my last fight, so I'm excited for this fight. For this fight, I'd be a little disappointed if I walked up-- if it ended in 20 seconds-- because I am in that good of shape, and I do want to show the world my skill set and that I am capable of being a champion.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, pretty well known that you're a manager of fighters as well as a fighter yourself. And so I wonder if the manager side of you-- because the UFC loves fighters that are willing to come back, willing to take fights on short notice. I think of Michael Chandler getting the title shot just a few months after he came into the UFC because he was willing to say yes to all these different opportunities. So from your standpoint, knowing what the time off did for you between the Kattar fight and the Tucker fight, what do you advise your clients now about time off as opposed to taking short notice fights?
DAN IGE: Well you know, it's really hard to say. And everyone's different in every circumstance. At the time, I did what I had to do. I had to take the fast track. Like, I could have sat back and picked my fights and built my record and built myself to become a champion, but I also needed these close fights or decision loss or whatever that I had at the time to really make me and create the fighter that I am today.
For me, I don't really regret anything I do. For anyone else, like I said, everyone's different in every scenario. There is a time and place to take short notice fights because sometimes you just have to jump on to opportunity. Like for me, for instance, my last fight I wanted to take a little time to just enjoy my newborn son and enjoy some family time. I won a big fight. I got a bonus. Like, I'm OK. I don't need to fight and try to make money. I'm OK, but also I got a big opportunity to fight number four or five in the world, and those opportunities don't just come every day.
I'm a man of opportunity. I'm all about being in the right place at the right time, and for me, it's all about taking a leap of faith. There's a time and place you just have to go go go, but there is a time and place you just have to sit back and grow as a fighter. Age, everything comes into factor. So I really don't know. And like I said, if I was to advise someone, it would be different in every situation and every scenario.
KEVIN IOLE: I don't know if you saw George St-Pierre's comments the other day, but he talked about once he became a champion and renegotiated his deal, he was making tens of millions of dollars a fight. I think that surprises some people who say MMA fighters are underpaid. But I use that to preface my question about, there's a lot of talk-- and Tyron Woodley is going to fight Jake Paul-- a lot of talk about the celebrity YouTube type fights. And you're seeing these guys make money.
Now my contention is, hey, Jake Paul's brilliant. He's earned that, right, by building himself up in another way and making himself popular. But how do you as a fighter look at that, when you see a guy that's fought one or two times? You know, you've been at this. You've wrestled in college. You got your jiu-jitsu belt. You've done all these things. You've been a pro-- what, seven, eight years now? What do you take when you see guys that are just kind of jumping into the sport and taking these big paychecks out? Does it have an impact on you one way or the other?
DAN IGE: You know, it's really hard to say. And I'm happy for those guys, to be honest, because they built their platform, but they built it in different ways. Maybe they didn't going through the same struggles and adversities like a lot of us fighters did, but they went through another route, another path to success. And they're making great money, and that's awesome. And for myself, too, as a fighter, of course I'm always going to want to make more money. Even if I'm making $10 million, I want to make $20 million. I want to make $30 million. Like, we're always going to want a little bit more.
To be honest, where I'm at right now in my career, I just signed a new deal with the UFC. It's the most money I'm making, but it's not anywhere close to what some of these guys are making, but I'm not out there complaining about it because I just signed a deal. I just signed a contract. Like if I want to go test the waters, I could do that, but at the same time, I have to build my brand and make that name for myself.
So for me where I'm at right now, I think it's great, and I'm very happy with the money I'm making. But at the same time, I do want to start building my brand. This is my time to really build and develop myself because at the end of the day, we're a product. We are a brand. So these guys, Jake Paul is the brand. Logan Paul-- they're a name. They're a brand. They go out there and demand big money, and that's great for them. If they can get the money, get it. Tyron Woodley, get the money. Or whoever. Jon Jones, get the money. I don't know.
I just have a problem with the people that signed big contracts and then start complaining about it one or two fights in. I get it. Like maybe I strike to stardom in two fights and then I want all this money, but I'm under contract. I get it. I understand. But at the same time, do your business behind closed doors and get yourself fed.
KEVIN IOLE: I have a feeling, Dan, that if this fight goes on Saturday the way I think it's going to go-- and I think it's going to go pretty good-- you may go from being known as Dan "50K" Ige to Dan "100K" Ige because that might be one of those fights where you get a double bonus because that's going to be a wild one.
DAN IGE: Yeah, that would be insane. I like when people say it's going to be the fight of the night because to me, that means it's too close. The fight's too close. And I want to blow the guys out of the water, but a fight like this, it is a fight for the fans. I do embrace the fight of the night, and I do also want a performance of the night, so I wouldn't be mad if I walked out with the double bonus. That would be great. That's best-case scenario, obviously. But like I said, I'm just going to go out there and look to win and find a way. I always find a way.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to end it with two last questions. One's specific about the fight. He obviously is a pretty good striker, hits hard, but he has that submission game. A lot of times you may think, well, a guy that hits hard like that, you want to take down, and you have that wrestling ability. But then you get into a territory like, you want to be grappling on the ground with him. I know you have jiu-jitsu, but is-- how do you pick your poison? Do you look at it and say, hey, I'm better off grappling with this guy, or I'm better off striking with this guy. How do you pick a poison against the guy like that that's good at both area?
DAN IGE: I'm pretty confident in both areas because-- you could ask him the same exact question. I'm just as dangerous on the feet. I have the power to put guys out, and I have submission and ability too. I come from a wrestling background and jiu-jitsu background obviously, but over the years, I've really gotten good at striking, and I love it. I love going out there. I love the chess match, and I understand it.
From my first fight in the UFC, I didn't know anything about striking. I just knew how to hit the guy in the face and try to not to get hit, but now I'm really understanding the art. Seeing openings, counter fighting. I know how to counter fight. Things I didn't know how to do before, but I really love it.
For me it's just sort of, where does the Zombie want to go? I always test myself, and maybe it's my ego, but I want to beat the guys where they're best at. So if he's the best striker, I want to be better. If he's the best grappler, I want to be better. Wherever the fight goes, I'm ready. I've prepared myself to the fullest, ready everywhere. And I wouldn't be surprised if I beat him up standing or I beat him up on the ground.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to wrap with this then, because you said something that was interesting. You said that your first fight in the UFC, you didn't know anything about striking. Mentally, how tough do you have to be to go into a fight knowing 50% of the game, like, you're not really up on? Like, how do you mentally get yourself in there and overcome the nerves that everybody has to go out and be able to perform?
DAN IGE: Honestly, that confidence grew just from growing up fighting in Hawaii. Like everyone comes from a boxing or kickboxing background except for myself. I came from the opposite end, and they were just as afraid because they were great strikers, but they didn't want to throw because they didn't have any wrestling or any ground. And I went in there and like, I struck with these guys because I just didn't know. I just knew it was a fight, and I knew I have two hands and I have two legs. Yeah, I don't know. I think that's where the confidence came from, just over the years.
And now I'm just, I don't know, peak confidence because now I understand. I know how to fight. I know how to strike. I know how to brawl. I know how to fight smart. I know how to counter punch. I know how to fight going forward. I know how to fight going backwards. I can fight in the clinch. I fight at every range. That's a big thing too, range is. I think Korean Zombie is just as good everywhere, so man, this is going to be an insane fight, and I can't wait.
KEVIN IOLE: You're not alone. There's a lot of people who can't wait. Dan Ige against the Korean Zombie, Saturday on ESPN. It's going to be a hell of a show. You don't want to miss that one. Dan, best of luck to you always. Appreciate you, and congrats on the baby.
DAN IGE: Thank you so much, Kevin. Go Golden Knights.
KEVIN IOLE: My man.