Retirement is rarely an easy decision. Especially not in combat sports, where the desire to keep going against all odds is often a defining characteristic of what makes fighters who they are. After 16-years of competition, however, that’s the reality that Korean MMA legend Chan Sung Jung may be facing.
Still just 36-years-old, the ‘Korean Zombie’ has made his name as a fan-favorite talent, on the back of brutal wars inside the Octagon. His bouts with Yair Rodriguez, Dustin Poirier, and Leonard Garcia were the kind of fights fans still talk about years after they took place. This Saturday, in Kallang Singapore, TKZ faces what might be his final fight… maybe.
Korean Zombie still hasn’t made retirement decision
It’s not hard to see why Chan Sung Jung wouldn’t be too thrilled about the idea of retirement. Once considered one of MMA’s top talents, the Fight Ready athlete lost a significant portion of his career to circumstances outside his control. A number of severe injuries and a required period of military service saw Jung spend nearly four years sitting on the sidelines—and saw him compete just four times from 2012-18. In many ways the story of his career feels like a tale of ‘what could have been.’
That said, retirement has clearly been on Jung’s mind these last couple years. Following his last fight, a badly one-sided loss to champion Alexander Volkanovski, it sounded like Jung was ready to hang up his gloves.
“After every loss I always think about leaving the Octagon, leaving this MMA game,” Jung admitted after his title fight loss. “But I’ll need more time to think on it and see if I’ll continue fighting. I have to think on that. I think I’ve realized today that I’ll never be champion, and I don’t know if I have it in me to come back into the Octagon again.”
Clearly, with his fight against Max Holloway ahead of him this weekend, Jung decided he wasn’t ready to ride into the sunset just yet. But that doesn’t mean he’s done considering the idea. To hear him tell it, his future as a fighter will depend largely on how well he does against ‘Blessed’ in Singapore.
“I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” Korean Zombie told the assembled media during fight week (transcript via MMA Fighting). “It’s very difficult for a fighter to acknowledge that one’s career has ended. I’ll have to see how well I fight in the Octagon. I’ll have to assess myself on this fight, and then decide what’s going on next.”
Max Holloway has sympathy for Korean Zombie
As far as Hawaii’s Max Holloway is concerned, the call for Chan Sung Jung to retire is something of an overreaction. Holloway knows what it’s like to take a bad loss to Volkanovski, and feels if he wasn’t coming off his win over Arnold Allen, fans would be talking about Saturday’s main event as a ‘do or die’ contest for both men.
“At the end of the day, if I was coming off of my Volkanovski fight (and) he is coming off his Volk fight, the talks would be way different,” Holloway told reporters at UFC Singapore Media Day (transcript via MMA Junkie). “I think the talks would be, ‘Is this a retirement fight for both guys?’ We’ll see what happens. I was blessed enough to have the Arnold Allen fight. I was in ‘Korean Zombie’s’ shoes for the Arnold Allen fight. Everyone was counting me out.
“At the end of the day, it is what it is. I pay no mind. I think it’s like one year and four months the ‘Korean Zombie’ is going to be out, so I’m expecting the best ‘Korean Zombie’ there is. He has one year and four months to get healed, get healthy, to get better as an athlete, to get better as a person, period. He had to get all his affairs in order, and we’ll see. I think a dangerous ‘Korean Zombie’ is going to show up Saturday.”
Alongside the featherweight main event UFC Singapore is set to feature a light heavyweight rematch between top contenders Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann. A ranked featherweight fight between Giga Chikadze and Alex Caceres is also set for the card.
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