After calling a halt to his 12 year career in the UFC, Chan Sung Jung can look back on his career as an extremely memorable one. An icon of the 2010s and a featherweight legend, Jung matched up against the biggest names of the sport in a career littered with iconic moments. This article will delve through the career of Chan Sung Jung.
The Career of Chan Sung Jung
— UFC (@ufc) August 26, 2023
Early Years & Signing with the UFC
Jung made his MMA debut back in 2007 in South Korea. He would establish himself as the brightest talent in his home country by winning several tournaments held by organizations such as Korea FC and Pancrase Korea. He would go 6-0 in his homeland before making the move to Japan and fighting in the 2009 Featherweight Sengoku Grand Prix where he would make it to the quarter finals before picking up the first defeat of his career against Masanori Kanehara. After a year in Japan, he would accumulate a record of 4-1 bringing his overall record to 10 wins and a single defeat. It would be in April of 2010 that Jung would hit the shores of the United States for the first time.
Making his debut in the WEC, which at the time was the premier organization in regards to the featherweight weight class, Jung would square off against Leonard Garcia. Garcia was a veteran fighter at that stage who had fought the likes of Jens Pulver, Mikey Brown, Manny Gamburyan and Cole Miller. The pair fought a closely contested bout which Jung would ultimately lose by via split decision in a bout that won fight of the night. His second fight in the WEC would see him pair up against George Roop and the result would be far more decisive. Jung would lose the bout via KO from a headkick. This would mark the first time that Jung suffered consecutive losses, his first loss via KO. The match would prove to be his final fight in the WEC as the company was bought out by the UFC.
Despite losing his two fights in the WEC, the entertaining nature of his fight with the veteran Garcia which had ended in the somewhat controversial decision ensured that the UFC signed Jung in their newly created division.
The Best Win Streak In MMA and Title Shot
Initially scheduled to fight Rani Yahya (who still currently fights in the UFC’s Bantamweight division) Jung would be forced to pull out from the contest due to an injury and in an ironic twist of fate would eventually make his debut on the 26th of March, 2011, against the man who had beaten him almost a year previous Leonard Garcia. This would mark another iconic moment in the career of Jung who would manage to pull off the first ever twister submission seen in the UFC in what was only his first fight in the organization.
The win propelled Jung into the MMA limelight and made him a household name in the MMA community. Sensing that they had a star on their hands, the UFC placed Jung into a match with former title challenger Mark Hominick.
Before losing his previous fight to Jose Aldo, Mark Hominick had been on a 5-fight win streak where he had picked up wins over some of the biggest names in the sport including Leonard Garcia and George Roop—two men who had both beaten Jung previously. Jung and Hominick would lock horns at UFC 140 in December of 2011 where Jung would somehow top the incredibly impressive finish from his previous fight. At just 7 seconds into the fight, Jung would knock out Hominick with a thunderous right hand. This at the time was the joint fastest KO in UFC history. If Jung’s stock had been high before then, it had now sky rocketed and fans were already talking about him as a contender for Jose Aldo’s crown. There was still one more test that Jung had to pass though before he could be given a shot at the title.
Dustin Poirier had been on a 4-fight win streak and was just coming off a finish over Max Holloway when he was paired up against Jung. The fight would win many awards by all MMA media and was universally considered to be the fight of the year in 2012. The back and forth bout would be finished in the 4th round as Jung managed to successfully wrap up Poirier in a D’arce Choke. The fight saw the culmination of what was and still quite possibly is the most impressive 3 fight winning streak that has ever existed in MMA. The first ever Twister submission where Jung avenged a controversial loss, at the time the fastest knockout in UFC history against a man who had fought for the belt in his last contest, and then to top it off, a fight of the year and a finish against one of the hottest prospects in the sport at the time. It does not come much better than that.
Jung would eventually receive the coveted title shot after Anthony Pettis was forced to pull out of a bout with Jose Aldo. Originally slated to face Ricardo Lamas, Jung was pulled from the bout with Lamas in order to fill in for the injured Pettis. This would see him headline his first pay per view, UFC 163. Ultimately Jung would be defeated by Aldo who finished “Zombie” via strikes in the 4th round after Jung’s shoulder dislocated. The fight would be Jung’s first loss in the UFC and his career would come to a long yet temporary halt after the bout.
Returning to his native Korea, Jung was required to leave the UFC for a time to fill out his country’s mandatory requirement of a minimum of 2 years military service, causing him to have no fights for all of 2014, 2015 and 2016 with many fans lamenting to this day that Jung was unable to compete in the Octagon in what would have likely been his prime. Eventually making his return to the Octagon almost 4 years after being defeated by Aldo, Jung would pick up a victory upon his return knocking out Dennis Bermudez in the very first round of their bout and earning another performance of the night bonus.
With all the hype from the fans behind him once again Jung was placed into a bout with rising contender and fan favourite Yair Rodriguez in a fight that would result in the next iconic moment of his career. The back and forth contest saw the two fighters exchange massive amounts of damage and heading into the final seconds of the 5th round it was Jung who was ahead on the judges’ scorecards. With a second left on the clock and a second away from what would have extremely likely been a decision win, Jung was caught by a hail mary elbow from Rodriguez in the final second of the last round. Knocked out cold, the bout was immediately ruled a KO victory for Rodriguez and remains the latest finish in UFC history to this day.
Second Title Charge
Moving on from this defeat, Jung would bounce back with consecutive victories over Renato Moicano and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Each of these bouts would end via TKO in the first round. This bounceback after the Rodriguez loss was enough to see Jung end up in a title eliminator bout with Brian Ortega in 2020 with the winner set to challenge the Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Ortega would prove to be the better man on the night and would pick up a unanimous decision win over Jung. It was back to the drawing board for “The Korean Zombie”. Yet, he was not dead and despite being well into his 30s, refused to slip into obscurity. He took on rising contender Dan Ige, a surging prospect who at the time was 6-2 in the UFC and had victories over the likes of Edson Barboza and Mirsad Bektic. Jung would assert himself back into the upper echelon of the division by picking up a Unanimous Decision over Ige. His first win in a year and a half and his first ever decision win in the UFC. The win over Ige propelled him back into the title picture where Alexander Volkanovski still reigned with Ortega failing to beat him. With no one else left to challenge, it was decided that Jung was the most worthy.
The two would meet at UFC 273 where Jung would challenge for the featherweight belt a second time, almost 9 years after challenging Jose Aldo. Jung would lose the fight to Volkanovski, and in a one sided beatdown that made it clear that Father Time had caught up to him and that he was beginning to feel the effects of being in his mid 30s with a 15 year long career as a pro fighter. Eventually being stopped in the 4th round, it appeared that Jung was done in MMA with many fans predicting his retirement after the one sided nature of the contest. Jung was not done just yet, after being called out by Max Holloway following the former’s victory over Arnold Allen, Jung would lace up the gloves yet again.
Riding Off Into the Sunset
— UFC (@ufc) August 26, 2023
The two would meet at UFC Singapore in what was considered by many and even by Jung himself as probably being his last fight. Gaining huge support from the Singapore crowd, Jung rocked Holloway in the first round and showed shades of his former self in the Octagon. However, ultimately he would not receive the fairytale ended that he had hoped or rightly deserved and Jung would be knocked out cold by a single punch in the 3rd round of the fight. Leaving his gloves in the Octagon after, the career of “The Korean Zombie” was finally over.
So that is the career of Chan Sung Jung, from being an initially promising yet unproven prospect making his debut in WEC to becoming one of the biggest stars in the sport and delivering some of the most memorable moments in MMA history. The career of “The Korean Zombie” will surely go down in history as one to be remembered.