JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A lot has changed for “The Korean Zombie” between his two stints as the next man up.
It’ll be nearly a decade between title challenges for Chan Sung Jung when he steps into the UFC 273 main event Saturday opposite Alexander Volkanovski. The first championship opportunity was at UFC 163 in August 2013. Against then-champion Jose Aldo, Jung lost by TKO due to a shoulder injury in Round 4.
Since then, Jung (17-6 MMA, 7-3 UFC) has experienced ups and downs – with the ups outweighing the downs in terms of wins and losses. He’s 4-2, with victories over Frankie Edgar and Dan Ige among others. Improvements inside the cage have come, but Jung thinks mental adjustments and reframing will be the difference in him succeeding against Volkanovski (23-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC) in his second shot at UFC gold.
“When I prepared for my first title fight, I was very nervous,” Jung told reporters, including MMA Junkie, through an interpreter at Wednesday’s UFC 273 media day. “Everything was really new for me. I was really young, so at that age, challenging for a world championship title was obviously very unnerving for me. I was very nervous, but now I feel like I’ve become older because I feel less nervous, and I’m more experienced. I’m more prepared for the fight than when I was preparing for the Aldo fight.”
“When I was in Brazil for the Aldo fight, a lot of the Brazilians out there whenever they came across me, they were like, ‘You’re probably going to lose. You’re probably going to die in the octagon.’ So it was kind of threatening for me. I was nervous that that happened. But because of that experience, right now, I don’t care. Whoever walks up to me and says what the result is going to be, I don’t really care. I’m prepared for the fight.”
Jung, 35, brought in a mindset coach for this camp, which took place mostly in Glendale, Ariz. at Fight Ready MMA under head coach Eddie Cha. The mindset coach helped him focus his energy on the task at hand during training, something he is optimistic will translate to the fight Saturday.
“Since I haven’t done the fight yet, I’m not 100 percent sure what the difference is,” Jung said. “When I did all the sparring training, my mindset coach helped me focus on the opponent himself. I was able to think fast on my feet (with) the techniques I have to use in the (cage). I was less nervous. My stance was very solid. It’s my goal April 9 to do exactly what I experienced when I was doing the sparring training.”
As for the opponent in front of him, Jung gives credit where credit is due. No one has been able to figure out Volkanovski in the UFC yet, at least not enough to defeat him. However, Jung thinks he poises the most amount of threats out of anyone Volkanovski has fought.
“I’ve been fighting with fighters who are exceptionally strong in one certain way, for example, grappling or striking,” Jung said. “Volkanovski is well balanced out compared to these fighters who I’ve met in the past. I think I could finish Volkanovski in all these areas. I’m better than Volkanovski in all of the areas in MMA.”
Since 2007, Jung has been a professional mixed martial artist. He joined WEC in 2010 and merged onto the UFC’s roster in 2011 where he became a staple. A perennial top contender, Jung has thought a lot about wearing title gold. If it finally happens Saturday, a dream will be achieved.
“I feel these past 15 years have been this process of going for the belt,” Jung said. “I’m very prepared, and I’m going to enjoy this fight instead of obligated to win or nervous about taking the belt. I’m going to enjoy it. It was my dream to win this belt, so I’m very excited about it.”
UFC 273 takes place Saturday at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.