Chan Sung Jung might be the talk of the town after winning three fights out of three in the UFC to take himself to the brink of a shot at Jose Aldo's title by but in Asia another Korean featherweight is also starting to make waves. Bae Young Kwon is riding a three fight win streak of his own and will be looking to cement his status as one of the top fighters in the region when he takes on Eric Kelly at ONE Fighting Championship: Destiny of Warriors.
It will be the highest profile fight of his career but Kwon has put together three consecutive victories against respected opponents and the tough talking Korean does not feel that Kelly is a serious threat to his winning run,
"He is unbeaten but I think that is because he has taken easy fights. I have been fighting in Korea and Japan where the standard is much higher than the Philippines, his last performance was good but I am not impressed by his record because I think he has been fighting easy opponents."
Kelly is the URCC Featherweight Champion and is 6-0, coming off a very impressive submission win over Mitch Chilson at the inaugural ONE FC event last September and this is a fight which matchmakers have been trying to put together ever since Kwon defeated Brian Choi by unanimous decision at Road FC in December.
Since then Kwon has also beaten URCC Lightweight Champion Honorio Banario at ONE FC's second event in Jakarta to firmly establish himself as the most serious threat to the Korean Zombie's status as the top featherweight in the country.
He does not believe that Kelly is on the same level as him and is looking forward to becoming the first man to beat him when they face off in the Stadium Negara on June 23rd,
"Honorio Banario is a URCC champion from the Philippines and he had never lost but I was able to submit him, after I beat Kelly maybe the URCC should give me a belt! When Korean fighters go to fight for the famous events like ONE FC and the UFC we do well, it is not the same for Filipino fighters because they are not as good."
One thing which does appeal to Kwon about this eagerly anticipated featherweight match up is Kelly's aggression. He showcased a varied offense against Chilson, who he cut badly with an elbow from the bottom, and the Korean thinks that stylistically this is a good fight,
"Brian Choi only wanted to take me down and it was a very boring fight because he did not want to punch or kick with me. The fight with Honorio Banario was very fast but I like boxing and using my hands and want to make the ONE FC fans happy, also someone told me that I could win more money for winning by submission or knockout or making a very good fight so I hope to do that."
Kwon is well traveled having already fought several times in Japan as well as Taiwan and Indonesia and he is looking forward to fighting on the biggest MMA event ever to take place in Malaysia and wants to give the fans a fight to remember,
"In Korea there have not been many opportunities for fighters because a lot of promotions have had problems in the past so I have fought in other countries. I like to show that Korean fighters are very hard and strong so that people all over Asia will learn that Korean MMA is very good. I have never been to Malaysia before but I like to go to new countries and win fights, it is fun for me."
Kelly moved to Kuala Lumpur last year and is a trainer at Muayfit there so should have the home crowd behind him but Kwon claims he is not concerned and is hoping to silence the spectators,
"It is the same for Korean fighters when we go anywhere, I have fought Japanese fighters in Japan and it is not something I think about. If the crowd want Kelly to win then they should be ready for disappointment because it is not going to happen. I expect to finish him in the first round."
Kwon might sound supremely confident but he is within his rights to claim he has faced stronger opposition. Both Banario and Choi were unbeaten until they faced him with a cumulative record of 9-0 while Kyung Ho Kang, who he submitted in the first round, is currently ranked as the best bantamweight in all of Korea and is a strong favourite to win the Road FC 135 lbs Grand Prix next weekend.
One thing which is clear is that Kelly has been good enough to conclusively beat every opponent he has ever faced but this next fight will be the acid test of his world class credentials. Although ONE FC has yet to introduce belts it could easily be a title match up and Kwon says he is looking to land some silverware,
"I want to be the first featherweight champion of Road FC and of ONE FC but I don't think Eric Kelly is good enough to fight for the title, there are much better fighters in ONE FC like Tatsuya Kawajiri. If ONE FC think I am good enough to fight for the title then it would be an honour but to do so I expect to have to beat someone better than Eric Kelly."