UFC Singapore’s Kim Ji-Yeon: “I will keep Melinda on her heels”

UFC Singapore Kim Ji-Yeon
UFC Singapore’s Kim Ji-Yeon

UFC Fight Night Singapore takes place this coming Saturday, June 23, and a fight that’s flown under the radar is Kim Ji-Yeon versus Melinda Fabian. The women’s flyweight match will be on the prelims which start at 16:30 Singapore time.

Kim (7-1-2) with MOB Training Center in Korea will be making her third fight in the UFC while Fabian (4-3-2) out of Hungary Top Team will be in her second, plus her appearance on TUF.

Kim has an inexhaustible amount of martial arts experience: 6-2 in boxing, 11-2-1 in kickboxing, 3-0 in MMA amateur leagues Training under one of Korea’s best MMA fighters, Kwon Bae-Young, she’s added more techniques to her game, and yet she has cemented the grit and cage smothering she was first known for.

“Originally, I was more of an aggressive fighter, but in MMA you can’t just have one style. I was a striker at the beginning, so I focused on developing my wrestling and cage control. I tried hard really hard to develop the rest of my game for MMA. Now, I’m being more strategic and smarter about who I’m fighting and how I fight them.”

Fabian got her first big shot against Lucie Pudilova in Czech Republic’s GFC with a title bout war that went the distance. Kim shares this opponent with Fabian, so Kim might have been able to take something away from it.

“Unfortunately I didn’t see that fight against Lucie. I looked around for the videos, but it was hard to find much on Melinda. So I’m concentrating on myself instead of watching lots of film and planning for this particular opponent. I’m working on what I think I need to develop, and how I can implement it in the match.”

UFC Singapore Asia MMA Kim Ji-Yeon
Kim Ji-Yeon, 2014

That fight launched Pudilova into a UFC career, while Fabian had to “TUF” it out on The Ultimate Fighter 26. Meanwhile, Kim’s been in the UFC already. Are there any takeaways in skill level from this fact?

“Well, we both got to the UFC. Whether it was through TUF or directly, it doesn’t really matter. You have to have the skill levels and ability to get here in the first place. So I don’t think there’s any advantage or disadvantage for either of us, from a mental standpoint.”

Eddie Alvarez considered Fabian the best striker in the TUF cast, but she disappointed against Rachel Ostovich. She redeemed herself in the TUF Finale against Deanna Bennett, almost scoring a head kick KO. Fabian showed improved takedown defense, and her striking came out.

“The fight against Deanna Bennett showed that Melinda’s an aggressive fighter and she has some explosiveness. It makes me that more anxious to get in the Octagon with her. But I don’t really think that her power against the shoot will be much of a factor in this fight. I will be aggressive, move forward and push, keep her on defense.”

“I will keep Melinda on her heels”

Fabian’s a women’s MMA pioneer in Hungary, and sees herself as representing her country, something Kim has in common.

“There’s definitely always a sense of pride representing Korea and being one of the few female UFC fighters. There’s burden too, but with that comes motivation to perform at my best in the UFC to represent Korea well.”

In the current state of UFC, it is very competitive to simply stay in the promotion. Add to that the newness of her division, and the upswing in female fighters, and Kim must be tactical about her career.

“Women’s flyweight is the latest addition, so it’s not as deep or popular at the bantam, but I think it’s going to become really hot soon. Obviously to stay in the UFC takes a lot of practice, and I’m in this to improve. Rather than naming names, I just want to fight people who are ranked so I can move up the ladder. As soon as possible, I want to be fighting people in the top five.”

UFC Singapore Kim Ji-Yeon
Kim Ji-Yeon with Coach Kwon Bae-Yong, Team MOB

“Ronda Rousey is my overall favorite female fighter. But since she’s retired, my favorite who’s currently fighting is Rose Namajunas. She’s really tough, and her fight against Joanna was really exciting and unexpected.”

It’s Kim’s first fight week in Singapore. And it’s a foodie heaven. So, what does Kim plan to indulge in?

“I want to go to the night market and have chili crab and Tiger beer!”

As for the main event, “Cowboy” Cerrone versus Leon Edwards, what’s her prediction?

“I want Cerrone to win, because yesterday he gave me a fist bump in the lobby!”

UFC Fight Night Singapore takes place this Saturday, June 23 at 16:30 local time. For the full card and how to watch, visit the UFC’s event page.

Thanks to Kim Ji-Yeon’s manager Brian Rhee for translation.