Chan Sung Jung was not expecting this.
As recently as six weeks ago, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo already had a dangerous challenger in the form of WEC lightweight king Anthony Pettis. However, when that blockbuster UFC 163 headliner was scrapped due to a Pettis injury, it was “The Korean Zombie” who got the call to replace him.
“At first, I was really in disbelief about it until [UFC President] Dana White actually announced that I was going to be in the fight,” Jung said through a translator during a recent media call. “I actually didn’t really even believe that it was true.”
Regardless of Jung’s initial surprise at receiving the shot, Aldo has already voiced his opinion on “The Korean Zombie” as a challenger to his throne, asserting that Jung has earned his spot on the strength of a three-fight winning streak that saw him stop Leonard Garcia, Mark Hominick and Dustin Poirier.
Even so, the last victory on that list came more than 14 months ago, when Jung submitted “The Diamond” with a fourth-round brabo choke in Sherdog.com’s 2012 “Fight of the Year.” Nevertheless, Jung looks upon his long layoff as a blessing rather than a curse.
“It gave me a lot of time to prepare mentally and to get my injuries all healed up,” Jung said. “I think the time off actually benefited me.”
Along with welterweight judo stylist Dong Hyun Kim, Jung is likely the best known Korean talent in the UFC -- a fact that has not been lost on Jung’s home country, according to the featherweight. As Jung tells it, when he enters the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro as a 5-1 underdog, he will do so with the support of many of his fellow Koreans.
“In particular MMA circles, [my title shot] is probably one of the biggest things that has happened in Korean MMA,” said Jung. “Overall, there has been quite a big response from the mass media, as well, and the general public, who are very interested, not only in the fight but in [the sport of] MMA as well.”