After briefly pondering retirement, ‘Korean Zombie’ eyes return to contention with win over Dan Ige

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Chan Sung Jung had thoughts of calling it a career following his loss to Brian Ortega, but those feelings didn’t last long due to unfinished business in the featherweight division.

“The Korean Zombie” faces Dan Ige in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Vegas 29 event, which emanates from the APEX and will stream on ESPN+.

The loss to Ortega in the main event of UFC Fight Island 6 in October snapped a two-fight win streak where he finished both bouts in the first round. Knowing he was knocking on the door of a championship bout, Jung feels he is still a player at 145 pounds and is ready to prove it on Saturday.

“I’m excited to get back in the ring,” Jung told What the Heck through his translator and head coach Eddie Cha. “I still feel like title contention is possible for me and this fight is the first step in getting back there.”

Jung last fought for the title in August 2013, suffering a fourth-round TKO loss to then-champion Jose Aldo. The 34-year-old has seen the ups and downs of the sport but has found success doing his camps in the U.S. at Fight Ready in Arizona.

The Korean standout needed to look in the mirror a bit after his loss to Ortega and find his focus once again.

“I thought about getting back on track right away after the fight. I had a slight [thought] of possibly retiring, but that didn’t last too long,” Jung said. “I wanted to get back in there and show my skill sets, what I wasn’t able to do in that last fight and get back to training.

“Most athletes, when you take a loss like that, especially at the higher levels, everybody slightly thinks about retiring. I truly believe that. It does definitely creep in your head.

“Losing is always hard, whether it’s to Ortega or anybody,” Jung continued. “I might’ve made a slight mistake doing my camp in Korea and that’s why I’m back in the States — which, we’re 2-0 when we do our camps out here — and I’m just looking to turn things around. It’s not my first loss, hopefully it’s my last, and it’s just a part of fighting. I’m ready to show my skill set in this fight.”

Ige bounced back from having his six-fight win streak snapped by Calvin Kattar in July with a blistering 22-second KO of Gavin Tucker at March’s UFC Vegas 21 event. After the win, “50k” called for the fight with Jung and it was put on the books shortly thereafter.

For Jung, the fight with Ige made sense — mostly because there weren’t many other options available to him.

“Everybody in this division right now is either locked up with somebody, and with Dan Ige’s last performance he feels like he’s a [worthy] opponent,” Jung explained. “Zabit Magomedsharipov is retired or injured, Max Holloway was waiting for the belt, Yair Rodriguez got him, Brian Ortega is getting the title shot. So if you look at the rankings, all that was literally left was Ige. Calvin Kattar wasn’t ready yet, so there was nobody left and, technically, this was the only fight to make that made any sense.

“This was the only fight left to get back to a title shot. I’m excited to fight Dan. I think it’s gonna be a good fight and every fight you have to be excited and focused because you can’t go in underestimating a guy. We’re not underestimating Dan by any means and I think he’s a really good fighter. He was on a six-fight win streak [at one time] and the kid is really good. The guys that he’s beat, the record speaks for itself. He’s ranked No. 7 and he’s a dangerous, dangerous kid.”

As far as a prediction goes, Jung is keeping it open-ended, especially because of his dangerous and durable opponent standing in front of him. To get to where he wants to go in one of the deepest divisions in the UFC, Jung knows he needs to get a victory over Ige on Saturday.

“The game plan is to always be ready to go [the distance], but I’m looking for the finish,” Jung stated. “I won’t be surprised if I get the knockout or a submission, but I feel like it can go any which way, and I’m sure they feel the same way. We both have wins on the ground and on the feet, and that’s what makes it an intriguing fight. Everyone thinks it will be a banger — who knows, it might be a wrestling match, it might be a jiu-jitsu match. Anything can happen and that’s why this sport is so exciting when you have two guys like us getting in the cage June 19.”

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