Most mixed martial artists aspire to fight inside the famous Octagon and are looking to work their way high enough up the rankings to get a call from Sean Shelby or Joe Silva. However it is one thing earning a spot on the UFC roster, and quite another thing to be able to stay there for a prolonged period as Dongi Yang discovered to his cost.
The Korean middleweight had a perfect professional record of 9-0 when he was snapped up by the UFC in 2010. He dropped a disputable split decision to Chris Camozzi on his promotional debut, stopped Rob Kimmons in his second appearance and then endured decision losses at the hands of Court McGee and Brad Tavares.
It amounted to a 1-3 UFC stint but had the judges given him the nod instead of Camozzi it would have been a much more respectable sounding 2-2. Yang would also be entitled to point out that he has never been stopped, so when the call came to tell him he was being released it was a massive disappointment,
“I found out from my coach and I was really annoyed. I thought to myself, ‘maybe if you had worked just a little bit harder you wouldn't have gotten cut’.”
‘The Ox’ was cut in June, 2012 and it has taken him more than three years to regain his spot on the middleweight roster. Sometimes fighters simply work their way back into the thoughts of UFC matchmakers with a run of fine results that makes the argument for offering them a second chance irresistible. Other times there’s a slice of luck involved.
Yang has won two fights out of two since getting cut. He stopped experienced Korean middleweight Jae Young Kim in 2013 and finished fellow UFC veteran Dennis Hallman earlier this year. Impressive results and impressive performances but he was also fortunate to be fit, healthy, and coming off a win at the exact time matchmakers started putting together the first ever UFC card in Seoul.
It means that not only does Yang get to fulfill his ambition of fighting for the UFC again. He also gets to perform in front of the fans in his hometown. For ‘Ox’, the moment he got the call to fight on the November 28th card was a special one,
“I felt very happy. I look at it as my second chance. My last chance to prove I am an elite fighter and that I belong in the UFC. I will make the most of this opportunity.”
Yang has suffered from several injuries since being released by the UFC which explains why he’s only managed to fight twice in the last three years. He’s had a few matchups called off after getting hurt but has continued to train and believes he will be a more dangerous fighter than he was back in 2012,
“I think I improved a lot. My mental game got stronger, I have more experience and I am more well rounded now.”
Prospective middleweight opponents won’t exactly relish the prospect of Yang becoming even more well rounded because he already has outstanding credentials in multiple martial arts. He holds a third degree black belt in Judo, a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, a fourth degree black belt in Yongmoodo and is ranked as a first degree ‘Vzrosliy Razryad’ in Sambo.
Yang made his first ever foray into professional MMA back in 2007 and beat three separate opponents to win a one night tournament. He finished a 12 fight veteran in the final and says winning titles and silverware is something he’s always dreamed of,
“I always liked martial arts and I wanted to be champion, that's why I started. Outside of MMA I have competed in Judo and Yongmoodo and Taekwondo.”
UFC Fight Night 79 is set for the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul and will be headlined by a welterweight fight between Benson Henderson and Thiago Alves. The card features plenty of local fighters with two of Yang’s training partners, Hyun Gyu Lim and Tae Hyung Bang from Korea Top Team, also in action.
Yang will be facing off against Jake Collier. At 6'3" the American is one of the tallest fighters in the UFC’s 185 lbs division and ‘Ox’ says he has plenty of respect for his upcoming opponent,
“I think he has a reach advantage and he looks tough. He looks very strong. That's all I know about him.”
It’s an exciting opportunity for Yang. Fate has conspired to offer him a shot at UFC redemption in the city he calls home. But he knows he must seize his second chance with both hands and the 30 year old fighter offers a succinct yet simple summary of his current situation,
“It is very important for me to win this fight.”
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