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Dark Horse Da-un Jung

South Korean Light Heavyweight Looks To Continue Incredible Streak At UFC 254

Da-un Jung’s nickname is “Sseda,” and while that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in English, there’s a good reason for that.

“The nickname was bestowed upon me by my team. In Korean, it means ‘the strongest of the strong,’” he explains via translator. “I was the strongest light heavyweight in Korea, and in order to bring glory to Korea and its culture I decided to keep it in Korean rather than translate it.” 

Bringing glory to Korea is a triumph Jung can already cross off his list. In his last Octagon appearance, the 26-year old needed a scant 64 seconds to KO Mike Rodriguez in front of an adoring Busan, South Korea audience last December.

“It was one of the memorable moments of my entire life,” he confirms. “I really want to put on a show like that every time I perform.”

Da-un Jung of South Korea knocks out Mike Rodriguez with a straight right in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Sajik Arena 3 on December 21, 2019 in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Taking care of business vs Rodriguez, December 21, 2019 in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

He usually does. The victory marked his twelfth consecutive, with only one of those coming by decision. His aim was to keep the train rolling, but complications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic nixed a bout with veteran Ed Herman not once, but twice.

“It sucks I wasn't able to fight Ed Herman but I’m glad to be fighting, period,” he says, adding that he has no interest in rescheduling again with Herman. 

“He faked a low blow his last fight [also against Mike Rodriguez] in order to buy himself some time when he was hurt with a legitimate shot.  I can't respect someone like that.”

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Someone he can respect, however, is current UFC 254 opponent Sam Alvey. With nearly four times as many pro fights as Jung, Alvey will present Jung with a true test in just his third tilt under the UFC banner.

“He's a good fighter, I respect him a lot. He's got no quit in him.  He's got a dangerous punch that can turn the fight on a dime.  That's what I have to look out for.  I believe I'm faster, stronger, and hungrier than him. Fortunately, Korea had a good response to the pandemic so my training really wasn't affected too much. I had a good camp and I will knock him out.  I'm ready.”

 Da-un Jung of South Korea celebrates after knocking out Mike Rodriguez in their light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Sajik Arena 3 on December 21, 2019 in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Celebrating victory at home in South Korea, Dec. 21, 2019 (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

We’ll find out on Saturday, of course, but a big win on Fight Island would confirm Jung’s status as a legitimate dark horse at light heavyweight; a prospect overlooked at your peril given the division’s recent volatility. Jung, however, doesn’t want to hear it.

“I'm only focused on the fight ahead of me.  Everything else is just a distraction,” he says. “It just feels really good to finally be able to fight. Thank you, UFC, for making Fight Island possible. It feels really good. If having sports entertainment at this time to help people have some semblance of normalcy is possible, I would like to be a part of that effort.”

A long ten months will have passed when Jung finally steps back into the Octagon Saturday, a seeming eternity for such a young, dangerous talent. But don’t hold your breath waiting to see Jung’s name among the legion of fighters making lightning-fast turnarounds this year. He’s got something a little bigger on his mind these days.

“I am expecting my first child,” he beams. “I've been getting ready for that and spending a lot of time with my wife. After the birth of my child I'll start thinking about fighting again.” 

UFC 254 SPECIAL START TIME:

Main Card: 2pm ET / 11am PT on ESPN+

Prelims: 12pm ET / 9am PT on ESPN,  ESPN+and ESPN Deportes

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