Road Fighting Championship chief Jung Mun-hong speaks during a recent interview in Daechi-dong, Seoul.
/ Korea Times photo by Jung Min-ho
By Jung Min-ho
Road Fighting Championship President Jung Mun-hong said Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is “cheap” for taking domestic talent without providing appropriate compensation to the organizations where the fighters honed their skills.
During a recent interview with The Korea Times, Jung expressed his frustration over losing former Road FC bantamweight champion Kang Kyung-ho to UFC after he signed a contract with the world’s biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in July. The 25-year-old won the Korean outfit’s inaugural title.
“Do you know how much of our resources we spend to discover and develop talent? It was a great loss for us,” Jung said. “However, Kang really wanted to go, so I let him, even though UFC didn’t pay anything to our organization.”
Jung said the harsh logic of capitalism is pervasive in the sport where UFC dominates noting, “They use their reputation to recruit talent, while the talent-builders like us get nothing.”
Korea has produced many top-class fighters such as Kim Dong-hyun and Jung Chan-sung, proving it has a wealth of talent. However, many young athletes do not have many opportunities to fight and develop in Korea. Jung said providing such chances to young fighters was the biggest motivation in starting Road FC.
“I really believe Korean fighters have great potential on the international stage. With a constant talent drain for nothing, however, it’s really tough to keep the domestic scene competitive,” Jung said. “But we have definitely made some progress over the past two years and now we are ready to revive the sport’s past glory here.”
Road FC is the largest MMA organization in Korea following the closure of Spirit MC in 2009. With an upcoming event in Busan on Nov. 24, Jung said in a determined voice that it will be a good chance for domestic fighters show what they can do.
“UFC is pretty well-known in Korea, but the popularity of Pride FC was simply incomparable. At that time, everyone knew star fighters like Mirko Crocop and Fedor Emelianenko,” Jung said. “What we are trying to do is to rekindle the enormous MMA popularity that Pride initiated here.”
Pride FC used to be one of the world’s most popular MMA organizations with the biggest live audience record in the sport of over 70,000 at a Shockwave bout co-produced with K-1 at the Tokyo National Stadium in August 2002. Pride was sold to UFC’s owners in March 2007.
“I think we have an edge in terms of having a better understanding about Asian culture. And I will stand up to high-handedness of the rich U.S. counterpart,” Jung said. “Let’s see how successful Korean talent can be without relying on the reputation of UFC.”