There was some doubt as to how Chan Sung Jung would perform in his first Octagon appearance in more than three years.
And after Dennis Bermudez wobbled “The Korean Zombie” with an overhand right within the first minute of their featherweight headliner at UFC Fight Night 104 in Houston on Saturday, it appeared those concerns were justified. Even Jung himself admitted to having some doubts as he shook off the ring rust an extended absence tends to bring.
“I definitely felt that way, especially at the beginning,” Jung said on Fox Sports 1. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh man, I’m not moving the way I remembered or expected.’ But after I loosened up, things went OK.”
Actually, they went better than OK. Once Jung recovered, he didn’t take long to strike the decisive blow, as he slipped a Bermudez jab and dropped his opponent with a counter right uppercut. A couple follow-up punches on the ground sealed the victory at the 2:49 mark of round one, re-establishing the popular fighter as a person of interest at 145 pounds.
“I was very nervous walking into the arena. But I feel like everything I practiced for all that time [away], the takedown defense, the uppercut, it all happened,” he said. “I did it all the way I had practiced all this time. But I didn’t think the uppercut would work that well.”
Jung’s return went so well that UFC President Dana White believes that it could open doors for the Las Vegas-based promotion to venture into “The Korean Zombie’s” homeland for a second time. The Octagon first touched down in South Korea for UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul on Nov. 28, 2015. At that time, Jung was fulfilling his mandatory two-year service in the military and couldn’t compete on the card. A future South Korean card could also include the likes of Doo Ho Choi and Dong Hyun Kim, in addition to Jung.
“I don’t know if anybody in the history of the fight game has come back after a three-plus year layoff and looked as good as he did tonight,” White said. “Very impressive. He pumped some excitement into UFC Korea. [New owner Ari Emanuel] and I have been talking about going to Korea, so I think tonight he [Jung] sealed the deal.”
Prior to Saturday night, Jung’s last Octagon appearance was a title bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 163, which he lost via fourth-round technical knockout. While he still has some more work to do, Jung is confident that he is close to that title-contending level again.
“My goal is to always be the champion, and I think this fight has put me back in the game,” he said.
Count White among Jung’s believers.
“Dennis Bermudez is as nasty a fighter as you will ever face,” White said. “He came in tonight with all the advantages. The Zombie performed again. This guy is a phenomenal athlete, he’s a great fighter and man, is he a finisher.”