Legacy is such a tricky topic in MMA.
UFC is a mere three decades old. There’s not a full century of history to consider, which is why every hot new champion is the latest “greatest of all time,” as well as why there are constant analogues and references to boxing legends as opposite to MMA greats. The sport is growing and changing so quickly, it all has a feeling impermanence. By and large, win streaks and title defenses are the standard of impact.
By those standards, Jung wasn’t particularly remarkable. Under the UFC/WEC banner, he never won more than three fights in a row. He fought for the title twice and was finished twice. In his 13 years on those rosters, Jung only actually fought 14 times, going an even 7-7 in that span. On paper, his resume isn’t memorable.
What’s remarkable is that just about anyone who watched his career will remember differently. They’ll speak up for The Korean Zombie.
Jung is a warrior of the highest order, and in a way, his retirement fight against Max Holloway was the perfect showcase of that inner strength. Jung could have been the main event against a much lesser fighter, but he wanted Holloway, wanted to prove he was still among the best in the world at 36 years of age.
His performance demonstrated Jung’s self-belief and determination as well. He stung Holloway with quite a few hard connections, and when it was clear the fight was going against him, he bit down on his mouthpiece and tried to knock Max Holloway the f—k out. That’s a suicide mission if I’ve ever heard one, but Zombie committed and went out on his shield.
It’s just a better look than merely trying to limp to a decision loss beneath an increasingly worse beating.
After the bout, Jung confirmed his retirement in the cage. It was the correct call. 36 years of age is quite old for a Featherweight, and Jung’s offense-first style was never going to age well. It was a somewhat expected outcome, given pre-fight discussions and Holloway’s status as a huge favorite.
Less expected was just how emotional of a moment it became. Through injuries and hardship, Jung gave all of himself to this sport, and he gave all of himself to this final appearance too. The greatest MMA fighter in South Korean history was clearly heartbroken at his failure to capture a world title, a reality that set in after the knockout.
A wounded Zombie shuffled his way out of the cage, visibly dejected. All the praise and respect from his opponent and the crowd didn’t seem to have broken through his disappointment. Then, his iconic walkout song, “Zombie” by The Cranberries, began to play a second time.
The Singapore Indoor Arena might as well have been a f—king Cranberries concert. The entire audience was on its feet, belting along that impossibly huge chorus: Zombie, Zombie, Zomb-ie-ieeeee! Nobody was in a hurry to leave, not when Chan Sung Jung was still owed respect.
The message and moment sunk in. Jung looked around in wonder at the display of love, and a smile broke through. The Korean Zombie won the crowd, and his legacy was on full display as he left the Octagon.
Anyone who’s seen him fight can tell you he mattered.
For complete UFC Singapore: “Holloway vs. Korean Zombie” results and play-by-play, click HERE!