Choi Mu-Gyeom is the ROAD FC Featherweight Champion, and he’ll be making his first defense of the title on February 1, 2015 against Seo Doo-Won in Seoul, South Korea.
Choi was one of the contestants in the first ROAD FC Featherweight Tournament which started in mid-2013. He was an average 3-3 going into the field and as a journeyman was relatively an outsider. Like many Koreans who started their careers internationally, Choi was a conundrum: he had a great win over Taichi Nakajima in his second match, then was KOed by JJ Ambrose a few fights on.
In the tournament quarterfinals first round, Choi danced out to a Korean crooner, smiling all the while, and cruised to a decision win over striking prodigy Hubert Geven from Tatsujin Dojo. Choi’s luck continued with a bye when Kil Young-Bok failed weight.
This dropped him right into the finals against highly ranked and regarded Bae Yong-Kwon, who had defeated Michihiro Omigawa and Kosuke Umeda to earn his final bracket posting. The odds were definitely against Choi, to put it mildly. But he didn’t care.
In February of 2014, Choi sauntered out to his crooning walkout music, smiling under his dapper mustache, and then proceeded to go toe-to-toe with Bae every step of the way. Bae attempted his stellar judo and Choi gave it back to him. Bae went for the KO, and Choi used nice movement to avoid and deliver his own pain. On the ground, Choi showed skills that no one even knew he possessed.
When the Featherweight strap was wrapped around his waist, Choi beamed with confidence. The 26-year old hasn’t lost a drop of that right up to his first title defense which has been a year in the making. His defense will come against a strong opponent in stand out striker and former wrestler Seo Doo-Won.
Ahead of the bout, Asia MMA spoke with the Champ about his thoughts on his new position, his training leading up to his first title defense, and what he sees beyond this next match.
Asia MMA: After you went through the Featherweight Tournament and became the ROAD FC Champion, did your life change at all?
Choi: No, my life hasn’t changed. I only work on changing myself in order to move forward and make progress.
Asia MMA: Now you’re making your first title defense. Do you feel pressure because you have a title now? Or do you feel pride? Mix of both?
Choi: I feel pride, this is mine and my team’s pride. I will be putting the pressure on, I will be unrelenting and pull off this title defense no matter what.
Asia MMA: What is your opinion of Seo Doo-Won? Do you think he deserves to be the number one contender?
Choi: I think he has the right to be the first title defender because he was a KO machine against Joachim Hansen.
Asia MMA: Stylistically, is Seo a good match for you?
Choi: I think his style is a good one. He’s basically the same as myself. But whether it’s Seo Doo-Won, or any other opponent, is all relative.
Asia MMA: How would you describe your fighting style?
I’m a striker. I’m going to try to finish every fight.
Asia MMA: What’s your favorite technique?
Choi: High kick!
Asia MMA: So what has your training been like ahead of this match?
Choi: Kickboxing, jiujitsu, wrestling, and I’ve been training combinations of them. Right now I’m just focusing on my weight cut and it’s going well.
Asia MMA: How have you improved since you won the title?
Choi: I became stronger. On February 1st, you’ll see!
Asia MMA: Who are the training partners that have been helping you to prepare?
Choi: My Coach Cha Jung-Hwan, Kim Min-Woo, Kim Jong-Hoon, basically everyone on the team at MMA STORY is my partner!
Asia MMA: Who are the MMA fighters you respect?
Choi: I really respect Cha Jung-Hwan as a fighter. Among the UFC fighters, I think Nick Diaz is great.
Asia MMA: What will you do after your first title defense?
Choi: After I win my first title defense, I’m going to plunge back into training for my next title defense. I always have to be prepared.
Asia MMA: Other than training all the time, do you have any other hobbies?
Choi: I like to shop. And I like to visit really nice restaurants and hotels and try the food.
Asia MMA: How do you expect the Korean MMA scene to grow in the coming years?
Choi: Personally, I’ve already served my mandatory time in the Army. So I’m personally ready to help it grow.
Asia MMA: What is your goal in 2015?
Choi: In 2015, I want to succeed in every one of my title defenses!