UFC featherweight star Chan Sung Jung didn’t miss a beat in his return to action.
“The Korean Zombie” knocked out Dennis Bermudez in the first round of the main event of UFC Fight Night 104 on Saturday night in Houston in his first action after a layoff of more than three years.
After so much time away from the cage, even Jung wondered whether he could pick up where he left off as one of the top 145-pound fighters in the world.
The victory left him emotional.
“I’m human,” he said through a translator at the post-fight news conference. “There were times when I thought, can I keep up with the game? Can I keep developing my techniques?
“Now, I feel like I’m about to cry.”
Jung last competed in August 2013 when he unsuccessfully challenged Jose Aldo for the UFC title. After suffering an injury the following year, Jung announced he was taking a hiatus the sport to begin serving his mandatory military term in South Korea.
He answered any questions about whether he would be able to return to a high level with Saturday’s performance.
“I don’t know if anybody in the history of the fight game has come back after a three-plus year layoff and looked as good as he did tonight,” UFC president Dana White said on Fox Sports 1 after the fight. “Let me tell you what, Dennis Bermudez is as nasty a fighter as you will ever face, and he came in tonight with all the advantages. And the Zombie, he performed again. This guy is phenomenal athlete. He’s a great fighter, and man, is he a finisher.”
White said Jung’s victory “sealed the deal” on the UFC’s decision to return to Korea for an event.
Jung wasn’t able to compete on the organization’s first event in Seoul back in 2015 because it was during the time of his military stint. He said he would very much like the opportunity to compete on the next UFC card in front of his home fans.
For now, he was just pleased to be able to get his first win since a submission of Dustin Poirier in May 2012.
“It feels really, really good,” he said. “I want to thank all the people that stood by me during that time off.”
With the return out of the way, Jung can start thinking about his future.
“My goal is always to be the champion, and I think this fight has put me back in the game,” he said.
That would mean a rematch against Aldo, but Jung appears to actually have his eyes on a fight with interim champion Max Holloway.
There’s no timetable for his next fight, but it will almost certainly be less than three 42 months he had to wait between his last two bouts.
ANDRADE EARNS SHOT
If Saturday night was an audition to determine whether Jessica Andrade was ready to challenge for the UFC women’s strawweight title, then the Brazilian got the part.
Andrade improved to 3-0 since dropping down from bantamweight to strawweight last year with a unanimous-decision victory over Angela Hill in Houston.
White said Andrade will “absolutely” get the next shot at champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, likely in April or May.
“When you see the way (Andrade) fought tonight, just imagine those two squaring off in there and the absolute war that will be,” White said on Fox Sports 1. “That’s going to be a fun fight.”
White was equally pleased with Hill, who was making her return to the UFC after four straight wins made her the Invicta champion.
“In the women’s divisions, that’s one of the greatest fights you’ll ever see,” White said. “I mean, that fight was incredible. Both girls were getting hit with bombs. What a great fight.”
The first UFC pay-per-view event of 2017 will take place Saturday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie will meet in the main event of UFC 208 at Barclays Center (7 p.m. PPV; 5 p.m. prelims on FS1) to determine the first champion of the new women’s featherweight division.
A pair of middleweight bouts are also featured on the card. Longtime champion Anderson Silva seeks his first official win since October 2012 when he takes on Derek Brunson and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will look to remain among the top contenders as he faces Tim Boetsch.
Contact Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.
— UFC 208 (PPV/FS1)
Saturday, Brooklyn, New York
— Bellator 172 (Spike)
Feb. 18, San Jose, California
— UFC Fight Night 105 (FS1)
Feb. 19, Halifax, Nova Scotia
— Bellator 173 (Spike)
Feb. 24, Belfast, Northern Ireland
— Bellator 174 (Spike)
March 3, Thackerville, Oklahoma
— UFC 209 (PPV/FS1)
March 4, T-Mobile Arena