With Frankie Edgar forced to drop off the UFC Denver card, the Korean Zombie was looking for an opponent with a similar style — but he says Yair Rodriguez was the only one who stepped up to take the fight.
Denver, CO — At Thursday’s open workouts ahead of the UFC’s historic 25th Anniversary show in Denver, main event featherweight Chan Sung Jung — who prefers to be known as Zombie — tackled the difficulty of sitting out of the UFC for so long, and the reaction he has received from American fans. Not to mention being faced with a late change of opponent at UFC Denver, as Frankie Edgar withdrew due to injury. In his place is Yair Rodriguez, quite the difference in style.
Acknowledging (via translator) that “I’m just a lucky guy,” The Korean Zombie suggested that “Americans love Zombie. Same goes with my nickname, I think, there’s like a resemblance, and that’s how people remember me.”
After sitting out for years due to mandatory South Korean military service starting in 2013, Zombie returned to action in February 2017, coming back with a bang at UFC Fight Night 104. Knocking out Dennis Bermudez within a round, it seemed as if the Korean favorite was ready to go on a tear. Then, an injury setback. A damaged knee forced him out of a bout with Ricardo Lamas at UFC 214. He’s been on the sidelines since.
“I believe every fighter goes through some sort of injury,” Zombie told reporters including Cageside Press Wednesday when asked about the time away. “It was tough for me at first, but I’m coming back stronger. If that’s going to drag me down, how am I able to fight?”
— Mike Straus✍ (@AKAstraus21) November 8, 2018
As far as losing Frankie Edgar, and having to face Yair Rodriguez, “it’s just the change of an opponent,” said Zombie. “To be honest, it doesn’t really effect me much, because I’m a fighter. Fighters fight. That’s what we do.”
Having said that, the change in styles was something Zombie hoped to avoid. “That was the difficult part, trying to adjust to another fighter with a completely different style,” he explained. “I was asking for a similar fighter that has a similar style, but Yair was the only one that took [the fight]. So I’m trying to adjust to that.”
UFC Denver (UFC Fight Night 139 for those counting) is a special event in UFC history. It’s the promotion’s 25th anniversary show, and they’ve headed back to where it all began. For Chan Sung Jung, however, his focus is only on the fight ahead. “Just because it’s the 25th anniversary, it doesn’t really mean that much to me. Although it is a special event, I’m still standing here, headlining the event,” he said, adding that his focus was completely on putting on a show for fans.
Asked if he’d had his eye on his opponent over the years, Zombie replied that “Yair has his own style. He stands out. I always had my eye on him as well. Because he’s in the same featherweight division as I, I knew that one day I would have to face him.”
Calling the 145lb weight class “the most exciting division in the UFC at the moment,” the man headlining Sunday night’s show in Denver also gave his thoughts on champ Max Holloway. “Max will stay as champion for quite a long time,” Zombie believes. So he’s going “to go up there and catch him” before all is said and done.
UFC Fight Night 139 takes place Saturday, November 10 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The card airs on FOX Sports 1.