Dong Hyun Kim is preparing to headline a UFC card for the first time, knowing that a win over John Hathaway in Macau next month would propel him straight into the title picture in a welterweight division that is wide open in the wake of Georges St-Pierre’s retirement.
Kim’s five-round fight with Hathaway will be the main event of The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale. It will be the third time in Kim’s last four fights that the Korean has got to compete in Asia, a factor that he feels is very much in his favor.
“The biggest advantage is the fact that I don't have to deal with the time differences. Macau is only an hour of time difference from Korea, which means I have to spend less time on the road to get adjusted to the time differences and the jet lag. Plus, there were quite a few fans from Korea who travelled to see me in my last Macau fight and I am sure we will have more fans from Korea to watch my fight now that I am the main card fight,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
Hathaway doesn’t feature in the UFC’s official rankings, but only because he has been sidelined due to injury for over a year. The Englishman’s Octagon record of 7-1 is one of the best in the division and this is a fight that has implications for the title aspirations of both men, but Kim says he is more worried about entertaining the audience than eventually winning the belt.
“My aim is to have a fight that all fans can enjoy and not just focus on winning a title. With enough wins I am quite sure that will take care of itself.”
Johnny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler are set to fight for the vacant title at UFC 171 and St-Pierre’s absence has removed arguably the most insurmountable obstacle to Kim challenging for the belt, but he clearly doesn’t see things this way.
“I am always motivated by any fight whether it is for a title or not. GSP's retirement doesn't give me any more motivation than I had before. The welterweight class is one of the toughest in the UFC with so many good fighters, so I don't think about having extra motivation because of what GSP has recently decided to do,” he said.
Kim stated in a press conference during the recent publicity tour ahead of the TUF: China Finale that he felt fighters in Korea weren’t getting the opportunities they deserved. I asked him to elaborate on this and to pick out some prospects that fight fans should be keeping an eye out for.
“As I said in the press conference, there haven't enough opportunities for the top prospects to fight to gain experience and get better. A recent signee of UFC, Choi Doo-Ho, is an exciting fighter that a lot of fans don't know about; and Bae Myung-Ho who trains with me at Team MAD is another fighter who should be in UFC, but is an excellent MMA fighter,” he said.
With Singapore joining Japan and Macau on the list of countries in Asia to have played host to UFC cards, there is growing talk of the organization heading to Korea and Kim would love nothing more than to fight in his homeland for the first time since 2004.
“UFC is getting very popular in Korea and I really do hope that I will get a chance to fight in an official UFC event in Seoul some day,” he said.
Kim’s main event status at the TUF: China Finale, which is set for the Cotai Arena on March 1, means he is scheduled for five rounds for the first time in his career, but he says this won’t affect his approach to the fight,
“My preparation isn't going to be any different than other fights. I am going to try and put a fight that a lot of fans can truly appreciate and enjoy as well as worthy of being a main card fight,” he said.
However while he isn’t particularly perturbed by the potential length of the fight Kim the significance of seeing his name at the top of the poster is definitely not lost on the Korean,
“I am very excited and honor to be given this opportunity. I have always wanted to fight in the main card and my dream has indeed come true.”
The TUF: China Finale will be available to view on the new UFC Fight Pass digital service. Other bouts confirmed at present are Matt Mitrione vs. Shawn Jordan, Hatsu Hioki vs. Ivan Menjivar, and Yui Chul Nam vs. Kazuki Tokudome.
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