It’a been a year and a half since Kim Soo-Chul has fought in his own country of South Korea. When he returns at ROAD FC 14, the former ONE FC Champ won’t be getting an easy welcome.
Kim will be taking on Pancrase ranker and UFC vet Motonobu Tezuka. He is aware that many think this is another difficult fight for him, but but now that’s become the norm in his career. So has proving people wrong. Kim turned his record around in ONE FC by streamlining his own path to the Bantamweight Championship. It turned his record and image around 180 degrees, and put him on the “must watch” list across not only Asia, but much of the MMA world.
Then Kim ran up against the leader of the pack, Bibiano Fernandes, and after a grueling five round unification battle, his first title slipped from his grasp. Many might have faltered, complained, sulked or just disappeared for a refresher. However Kim has put his stock on the line by jumping right back in the cage against another tough opponent, while still continuing to call out Bibiano again. Kim is gregarious as a mere 22-year old, and just starting to show glimpses of what he might become.
MMA-in-ASIA spoke with Kim ahead of his ROAD FC bout, and discussed his coach, his training, and his very unique goals in his MMA career.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your opinion of your next opponent, Motonobu Tezuka?
Kim: He’s very strong. And he doesn’t know how to give up.
MMA-in-ASIA: Has your training changed since your last fight, and in preparation for this one?
Kim: No, not much. I still train in striking, wrestling, in jiujitsu – everything.
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
Kim: I think it’s stamina. Team Force’s normal training is really hard. I just follow the training schedule and my stamina has developed along with it.
MMA-in-ASIA: Since your coach, Jung Moon-Hong, is also the owner of ROAD FC, does it give you added pressure to perform?
Kim: Actually, I don’t have pressure from this situation, but I do feel a bit nervous because I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him before this fight. Because my coach has to focus on the event. But in my corner I’ll have our team captain Kil Young-Bok.
MMA-in-ASIA: You were fighting before ROAD FC began. How do you feel about your “hometown” promotion’s growth and the level of the fights?
Kim: It’s really an honor to fight in ROAD FC now. It’s developing very quickly. And it’s live-streamed and on TV. Korean MMA is getting stronger, but the US, Brazil and Japan still produce the best MMA fighters.
MMA-in-ASIA: How do you feel about the recent interest in the Korean MMA scene from the Japanese fighters?
Kim: It’s really good for Korea! About ten years ago, all the Korean fighters really wanted to fight in PRIDE, and fight in Japanese MMA leagues. But these days, the Japanese fighters are saying that they want to fight in the ROAD FC cage. It’s a real honor. It’s a good situation in Korea.
MMA-in-ASIA: Were there any fights that inspired you?
Kim: Chan Sung Jung versus Jose Aldo!
MMA-in-ASIA: How about long before that?
Kim: I liked Kid Yamamoto when I started MMA training. I thought he was very exciting.
MMA-in-ASIA: You have a career in MMA now, and you’re still quite young. How have you been able to do this at such a young age?
Kim: I was really lucky to meet a great coach. Not only his coaching is good, but he’s always that about how to make the best opportunities for his fighters. My coach always makes my long term plan in my fighting, not only skills or game plan. He made a lot of matches for me, even before ROAD FC took off. Also, at Team Force, they train really hard with me, we’re like family. And my parents really support me.
MMA-in-ASIA: What about university?
Kim: I started university, but I stopped to concentrate on my MMA career. My parents were okay with that!
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have any hobbies outside of the gym?
Kim: I like to play guitar. I like video games, X box, Playstation. Assassin’s Creed, GT.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve fought in many places around Asia. What was one of your most memorable experiences overseas?
Kim: One was in the Philippines. When I fought with Kevin Belingon in Manila, almost everybody looked like they wanted to kill me. That was my first time to feel so weird, and a little scared. But it made me more excited and crazy.
MMA-in-ASIA: What about after you won?
Kim: Oh I escaped quickly, I don’t know!
MMA-in-ASIA: However, you have made a lot of fans in the past year because of your heart and developing game.
Kim: I think people like my fight style because it’s like a real fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have any rituals before your fights?
Kim: I visualize how the fight will go when I go to sleep the night before.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your goals for your MMA career?
Kim: I want to fight with fighters who everyone believes are the best in the world. I want to be the underdog all the time. Then I want to win. And I want to make my juniors at Team Force into good fighters. And I want to rematch Bibiano. I believe I lost because I let him to go on the offense with his wrestling, and I didn’t have enough finishing skills.