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UFC 273: It's all or nothing for Chan Sung Jung against Alexander Volkanovski

·Combat columnist
·4 min read
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News flash: Chan Sung Jung, aka “The Korean Zombie,” is not really a zombie. Not even close, actually.

The one thing zombies don’t have is emotions, and the Zombie admitted to a whole host of them in an interview with Yahoo Sports which impacted the way he performed in the two biggest fights of his life to date.

Zombie fights Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title on Saturday in the main event of UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Florida. He said he believes the disappointments from his bouts against Jose Aldo and Brian Ortega will lead him to a major upset of Volkanovski and fulfill a long-time dream of becoming a world champion.

Oddsmakers aren’t giving him much of a shot. At BetMGM, Volkanovski is a -750 favorite, with Jung at +500 on the buyback.

Jung, though, isn’t concerned. He’s learned from very different circumstances in the Aldo and Ortega fights what it takes to win. The one commonality in those two was that Jung did not control his emotions.

He was stopped in the fourth round of his featherweight title fight with Aldo at UFC 163 in Brazil on Aug. 3, 2013. Aldo was at his peak at that point and Jung simply didn’t match up.

His coaches at the time were inexperienced and not ready to prepare a fighter at the level it took to defeat Aldo. But he also wasn’t prepared mentally.

He felt pressure and was intimidated in a way. The result was that he was never really in the fight and went out in the fourth.

“I was young and inexperienced,” Zombie told Yahoo Sports. “Aldo had so many title fights and I was kind of scared, I guess you could say. Given how I was [mentally], I think even with better coaches, I would still have lost.”

Jung fought Brian Ortega in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 18, 2020, for the No. 1 contender’s spot in the featherweight division, with the winner getting a crack at the title. Again, Jung laid an egg, but this time, there were two issues that he said led him awry.

The first came because of an incident between Ortega and Jung’s friend, rapper Jay Park, at UFC 248. They had a confrontation and Ortega slapped Park in the face.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: 'The Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung of South Korea reacts after his victory over Dan Ige in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 19, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
"The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung knows Saturday's fight is most likely his final shot at winning a UFC title. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The slap had a trickle-down effect on the Zombie.

“Jay Park is my friend and he’s helped me a lot,” Zombie said. “It really distracted me a lot when Ortega slapped him. I was enraged and I failed to control my emotions. And a lot of Jay’s Korean fans, and a lot of them are my fans, too. They were angry that Jay was slapped, very angry.

“I felt a lot of pressure in that fight, because the Korean fans really wanted me to win and they wanted me to [avenge] Jay Park.”

But he went into the fight not in optimal shape, he said, apparently so confident he would win that he didn’t get into the type of physical condition he routinely had done.

So now, he is fortunate. He replaced an injured Max Holloway against Volkanovski and knows this may be his last kick at the can. It’s not often a guy loses a title fight and a No. 1 contender’s fight and gets another opportunity.

So it’s all or nothing for Jung against Volkanovski. He’s brought in Henry Cejudo and Eric Albarracin of Team Fight Ready to help him.

He said he’s never had the kind of preparation before a fight that he’s had for this one and expects it to make a difference.

So while he acknowledges there is pressure on his shoulders from the fans at home — “Everyone believes I am going to win this,” he said — he said he’s done what needs to be done to accomplish the mission this time around.

“The biggest difference for me this time is that the first time I fought for a world title, I was trained by people who had no experience in making a champion,” Jung said. “[My training] was kind of insufficient. This fight, I trained with people who have experience making a champion and that’s the biggest difference.

“Henry Cejudo was the flyweight champion. He was the bantamweight champion. He’s an Olympic gold medalist. He’s very experienced with MMA. The way he looks at the sport comes from the eye of a guy who knows how to win. I learned a lot from Cejudo and it’s made me a lot better.”