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The Korean Zombie: Korea’s UFC Champion

Men all over Korea are hardcore fanboying over The Korean Zombie following UFC 273. On April 9, 2022, the UFC Featherweight Championship took place with The Korean Zombie going head to head with Australia’s Alexander the Great. Despite losing what is probably the last major match of his career, The Korean Zombie has won over the hearts of the public.

An Introduction to UFC

Firstly, let me begin by admitting that I’m not much of a fighting fan. My partner puts up with my fangirling over Gong Yoo and does his best to contribute to the conversation. And so I’m getting into boxing, it was either that or Ameican football -No thanks! Nevertheless, here is a bit of background if you’re completely new to the sport and how things work. If you’re not new to UFC fighting, skip to the next section.

What is UFC

UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship. It is a private sports league that was founded in 1993 with the intention of identifying the best school of martial arts. Competitors can fight in any martial arts style they please or in a combination of different styles including jujitsu, taekwondo, karate, and muay thai.

Initially, there were no rules other than no weapons being allowed. But, due to concerns over the extent of violence in the matches basic rules were put in place. These rules prohibited tactics such as eye-gouging, pulling hair, biting, and groin shots. However, even with new rules added, it is globally known as being the most relaxed fighting league as far as regulations go.

Weight Classes

The UFC divides fighters by weight class. For men there are 8 classes; Flyweight (53-57 kg), Bantamweight (57-61 kg), Featherweight (61-66 kg), Lightweight (66-70 kg), Welterweight (71-77 kg), Middleweight (78-84 kg), Light Heavyweight (84-93 kg), and Heavyweight (93-120 kg). 

Next, for women’s matches, there are 4 classes; Strawweight (48-52 kg), Flyweight (53-57 kg), Bantamweight (57-61 kg), and Featherweight (62-66 kg). My understanding is that matches are divided by weight to keep fights fairer. People can compete with similar body types as themselves, allowing the sport to be accessible to more athletes. 

UFC 273

Simply put the UFC 273 is the 273rd Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match.  The final match was between Alexander Volkanovski (Alexander the Great) and Jung Chan-sung (The Korean Zombie). The match fell into the featherweight category with The Korean Zombie weighing 66kg (145 lb) at 183cm (6ft) and Alexander the Great weighing the same at 180cm (5ft 11). 

The Korean Zombie: Background

The Korean Zombie was born on March 17, 1987, and is currently 35 years old in international age. He was born in Pohang, a rural city known for steel mining on Korea’s eastern coast. When he was in middle school he moved to a suburb of Seoul. There, he was bullied quite violently for his rural origins in addition to being a large and kind of awkward kid. 

The Korean Zombie’s aunt encouraged him to fight back, enrolling him in Hapkido classes. He later learned kickboxing, Taekwondo, Sambo Judo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

The Korean Zombie’s Professional Career

Warning: Violence

In 2007 the Korean Zombie’s career took off. He won a Sambo tournament and was recruited to participate in a Korean mixed martial arts tournament. During his first season, he won Pancrase Korea’s national tournament in the lightweight division. Then, he was recruited to fight in Japan where the sport was more popular at the time, and won a number of championships there. 

While already impressive, the Korean Zombie’s big international appearance that made him into a household name was in 2010. He entered the MMA’s World Extreme Cagefighting and went to America to compete. He lost the match however, it remains one of the most controversial fights in mixed martial arts history. Many still believe that the referee made the wrong call.

The next year, in 2011, The Korean Zombie began fighting in UFC matches and has worked continuously with the league since then. While working in the UFC, The Korean Zombie earned his nickname through his perseverance.

Not once has he submitted in a fight. He is known for fighting to the point that any sane man would give up, stopping only when he’s unconscious but showing up to fight the next day. 

The Korean Zombie Vs Alexander

Before The Korean Zombie’s Match

The fight that has every fighting fan in Korea worked up is the UFC 273 lightweight championship match. Being 35 years old, this was likely The Korean Zombie’s last chance to win a championship. 

The day before the final match he posted the following:

Here is a rough translation of the caption. There are 20 hours left to go, thank you to everyone who has helped me up to this point. I’m under a lot of pressure but this time I’ll never give up this fight that is the key to my dreams. I will probably KO (fight to unconsciousness). I’m sorry in advance (to my worried fans). It is high-risk high reward. I’m going to believe in myself and fight. Thank you, everyone. 

The Match

The Korean zombie was extremely outmatched from the beginning. Personally, I found UFC 273 pretty hard to watch. The Korean Zombie was beaten to a pulp but he lived up to his nickname. He didn’t stop fighting. Although fights are supposed to have five rounds, after just three The Korean Zombie was edging towards the critical condition.

As the fourth round started, I think anyone who was watching probably just wanted it to be over. The Korean Zombie’s face was swollen and bloody. Plus, it was obvious he had some internal injuries because he was having difficulty breathing. Only 45 seconds into the fourth round, the referee stopped the match and declared Alexander the winner.

The Aftermath

Shortly after defeat, The Korean Zombie posted the following:

Roughly translated, the caption says the following:

I should be full of regret or sadness but I’m not. I’m relieved. I went into the match in perfect physical condition under perfect conditions…I lost so perfectly haha. I’m sorry to those who looked forward to my victory and am thankful for those who worry about me. It’s okay. I’m frustrated that the champion has learned this much.. I hope my failure can inspire the next generation of Korean martial artists. And so, I want to say thanks to Alexander for showing me the dignity of a champion. 

Reactions to the Korean Zombie’s Defeat

It seems like a lot of Korean fans are empathizing with The Korean Zombie’s defeat. It was his last chance to achieve his dreams, he gave it his all, but he fell short. In a highly competitive society like Korea, a lot of men see their own struggle to achieve their dreams in The Korean Zombie’s career. As a result, over the past few days, I have seen lots of men sharing their own stories of perceived failure in response.

However, while the Korean Zombie did not reach his ultimate goal, he certainly did not fail. He was an awkward kid from rural Korea who got bullied but grew up to be an amazing fighter. He competed on an international stage among some of the best fighters in history and has fans all over the world. Additionally, his career isn’t even over. He’s only 35!

Although The Korean Zombie may have fought his last UFC match, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. Zombies don’t stay dead.

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🇨🇦 🇺🇸 Kizzy Kuhn

Editor in Chief of KoreabyMe (12/2021 - 04/2023) Lover of fashion, art, and FOOD!!