Kim Dong-Hyun makes history at UFC FN 37 on March 1, 2014 as the first Asian-born fighter to headline a card in Asia. His match with John Hathaway tops the card that includes the TUF China Welterweight Finale.
Kim is 18-2 in his MMA career and stands to launch into the upper rankings of the UFC roster in 2014. MMA-in-ASIA spoke with him ahead of the bout, and got his impressions on the UFC’s expansion into Asia, his role in it, and how the welterweight ranking complexion changes with this match.
MMA-in-ASIA: Before this fight was announced, you were expected to face someone from top ten. How do you feel about taking this one?
Kim: Hathaway hasn’t ought for a long time and I think people may have forgotten how strong he is. It’s important for me to win this fight. I know it’s not going to be easy, which a lot of pople may be saying that. I can recall an interview I did a long time ago where I said I’d love to be the main event, the headliner fighter, but at the time the only way to do that was to be going for a title. So that dream has come true, and it’s an unbelievable experience for me, and a great feeling to be the headliner.
MMA-in-ASIA: How do you feel about it being five rounds?
Kim: No problem.
MMA-in-ASIA: You went overseas for part of your training camp. In the US, where did you go?
Kim: Syndicate Gym, Couture’s gym, Mayweather Boxing. I really enjoyed it. I was there about ten days.
MMA-in-ASIA: Did you learn a lot?
Kim: It was good, but I think with me, I’m more accustomed to the training regimen in Japan. I went to Wayjutsu Keishukai and trained with Okami Yushin.
MMA-in-ASIA: Who have you been training with at Team MAD? Bae Myoung-Ho, your regular partner, had shoulder surgery.
Kim: We have other fighters at Team MAD, certainly a lot more who are at middleweight and up, they’re amateurs. Kim Byeul, Kim Do-Hyun, a boxer, and of course Coach Yang.
MMA-in-ASIA: What did you focus on for this fight?
Kim: John is a tough fighter who doesn’t really have any weaknesses, but when you think about it, he doesn’t really have any strengths either. So it took a lot of time to analyze him in that regard. I really had to spend a lot of time analyzing him and preparing. Normally I would prepare two or three strategies, but for him I have to prepare four or five to be ready for him.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have a psychological advantage fighting in Asia?
Kim: I’m very sensitive to jet lag, so staying here has given me a greater advantage than anything.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you see yourself as the poster boy for UFC moving into Asia?
Kim: First of all, whether I really help to launch UFC in Asia or Korea I don’t really know, but it gives me tremendous pride that I was the first one and I hope it helps other fighters get into the UFC. But I’m certainly not going to sit on my laurels, because I’d like to see other fighters who I know that are much more talented get an opportunity. Perhaps other fighters from Japan or other countries are getting a little easier entry than some of our fighters. I think our fighters are under more scrutiny to get in. I certainly would like to see the trend of Koreans getting into the UFC.
MMA-in-ASIA: There are one old guard legends like Yushin, Gomi and KID who were the anchors for UFC coming to Japan. Now the new guard is entering, like you, and Nam YuiChul, and the Chinese fighters, how does the landscape change with more Asian fighters competing?
Kim: I’m really appreciative that the UFC has established an Asian office and that they are making the investment to bring UFC into Asia. I know that there are a lot of fighters from Asia getting into UFC now, but I’m very particular about the Korean fighters. I can assure you, that win or lose, the Korean fighters will give their heart, they will lay it all out until the final seconds and make an exciting fight. I hope the UFC will give a little more attention to the fighters coming out of Korea.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your predictions on Nam Yui-Chul’s first fight in the UFC?
Kim: I think Nam Yui-Chul resonates truly what a Korean fighter is. I think he’s going to put on a tremendous performance. This is one thing I didn’t get to say before. In the UFC, you can see many familiar faces when you watch an event. I would love to see TUF Korea. This will give an opportunity for you to see many fighters who aren’t in the UFC yet.
MMA-in-ASIA: Where do you see yourself in regards to title contention after this fight?
Kim: Honestly, I don’t think this is a fight I have to win, it’s all in how I win – or lose – if I fight the type of match the UFC is looking for, then I may get a title shot. So for me, this is a very important fight for me. There are so many strong fighters in welterweight.