Title shots in the UFC don’t come easy, but adding things like the first “twister” submission in the Octagon and a seven-second knockout over an opponent in the top 10 to one’s resume sure helps.
Following a disappointing 0-2 showing in the WEC in 2010, Jung was one of the more memorable figures of the sport in 2011. After avenging a previous loss to Leonard Garcia in March, Jung made quick work of Mark Hominick in December, shocking the Canadian fan base with an early knockout at UFC 140.
While Poirier (12-1) is the one attracting attention as a future dance partner to current champion Jose Aldo,
Jung (12-3) would have a case of his own for that opportunity with a win Tuesday. ESPN.com spoke with the man they call the Korean Zombie in the buildup to the fight.
ESPN.com: Is there any difference to your approach for this fight, considering you’re on a two-fight win streak and have the makings of a run at the title?
Jung: This is my dream. Winning the title is my dream. As I get closer to that, it definitely makes me want to concentrate more on obtaining that dream. Especially as far as preparing for this fight and making strategies, it was easier for me to be serious. I don’t really consider myself a “young” fighter. If I was given the opportunity to fight for the title tomorrow, I would do it. It’s the sort of thing I have a desire to do, but I’m also very confident I’m able to do it right now.
ESPN.com: Have you been told at all by the UFC where a win on Tuesday would place you?
Jung: I haven’t really heard anything directly as far as if I get the win, I’ll be in title contention. I think it really depends on how the fight goes. If I win convincingly, that would probably put me in a good position to get a title match.
ESPN.com: What are your thoughts on Poirier and had you had an eye on him before now?
Jung: I think he’s a really good fighter. He’s a physical guy, very strong, doesn’t have any real weak points in his game. I think very highly of him. I really got to know about him after his last fight against Max Holloway. Before that, I had heard his name but didn’t know much about him. After that fight though, he got my attention.
ESPN.com: Does it mean anything to you to headline a card and are you surprised at all how much the UFC fan base, especially in the U.S., has embraced you?
Jung: It definitely is important to me. It’s another thing I had as a goal. I’m very honored to be in this position. This is something along with winning a title I always wanted to do. When it comes to MMA fans in America, they don’t seem to have any discrimination as far as nationality or anything. They just really like exciting fighters. I’ve been surprised and I appreciate the reaction I get from fans. In the past year and in the past few months, my popularity and my visibility has gone up quite a bit.
ESPN.com: How difficult were those two losses for you in the WEC?
Jung: Those two losses were really hard for me. I pretty much suffered as much as a person can suffer from that. I put a lot of pressure on myself, so it was disappointing for me to lose like that in my first two fights. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go and do a little bit of training with Team Alpha Male, with Urijah Faber, because I felt like I needed to change something. I feel I learned a lot from those losses and it paved the way for me to come into the UFC and do well now.
ESPN.com: What is the biggest difference in you now as opposed to two years ago?
Jung: I’ve changed a lot both mentally and physically as a fighter. Two years ago, I was immature. I was stubborn about the way I fought and about my striking. It’s like I wasn’t fighting an MMA fight. I just wanted to [do] everything on my feet. That’s something I was stubborn about, but since then, I’ve changed that.
ESPN.com: Have you given any thought to fighting Jose Aldo, or do you try not to?
Jung: Fighting Jose Aldo is something I thought about even before I came to the WEC and the UFC. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot. If I were to fight Jose Aldo, I really don’t have a strategy. I haven’t really thought about that part of it at this point. But it is something I would like to do. Right now though, my focus is 100 percent on Dustin Poirier.