Korean Top Team’s Bespoke Promotion Has Emerged as a Major Force in Korean MMA

Fightland Blog

By James Goyder

What do you do when you have a camp full of fighters who are all hungry to fight? It’s a dilemma which many gyms have faced but Korea Top Team solved the problem in some style by forming its own bespoke promotion which has emerged as a serious force to be reckoned with in regional MMA.

Korean Top Team was the camp where Chan Sun Jung made his name and the Seoul based team has also seen numerous fighters like Dongi Yang, Tae Hyun Bang and Hyun Gyu Lim enjoy success with the world’s premier MMA organization.

However the new generation of KTT fighters was struggling to find opportunities to showcase their talent so head coach Dongjin Ha decided that the only solution was to form his own bespoke MMA promotion,

“Top FC was founded two years ago and our first show was very difficult because we lacked experience. But as the shows progressed we gained experience and now even though there are still challenges it is very rewarding and we are growing. It is a lot of fun and it is growing a lot, we are getting more popular with each show.”

Top FC has put on seven ‘numbered’ cards so far in four different cities as well as several amateur events. It’s given KTT fighters like Kwan Ho Kwak, who is currently 6-0, the opportunity to gain professional experience and make a name for themselves but Ha is adamant that his promotion is for mixed martial artists from every conceivable camp,

“TOP FC provides a venue for KTT fighters to showcase their skills. It is a platform for them to excel at the sport that they love. We do not extend any favoritism to KTT fighters. TOP FC is an equal opportunity organization.”

Top FC 8 is set for the Olympic Hall in Seoul this Saturday night and with the UFC heading to South Korea later in the year there are several prospects matchmakers might like to make a note of. A name that springs immediately to mind is that of Kwak who will be fighting for the organization’s inaugural 135 lbs title but Ha says he is not the only prospect to keep an eye on,

“I want my fighters to grow and for our fighters to excel in MMA. If the call comes from the UFC then they are free to join their organization at any time. Kwan Ho Kwak, Han Bin Park, Dong Hyun Kim, Kang Jung Min, Dongi Yang, Jae Young Kim, Seong Hwa Han, Dong Kyu Kim,  Doo Hwan Kim are some of our top prospects.”

Yang is better known as ‘The Ox’ and he has already had his moment in the UFC limelight. The 30 year old was cut in 2012 after suffering back to back decision losses but Top FC has given him an opportunity to work his way back into contention for another fight in the Octagon. On the inaugural card he stopped highly ranked Korean middleweight Jae Young Kim and two years later he returned from injury to finish seasoned veteran Dennis Hallman.

Yang will be hoping to secure a spot on the UFC Fight Night card which is set for Seoul on November 28th and Ha believes that bringing the Octagon the country for the first time will help to ignite South Korea’s burgeoning MMA scene,

“I think it will be a huge success because there are many MMA fans in Korea. With the addition of the US military presence here I really feel as though the UFC will do well here. We look forward to working with the UFC and are willing to help them in any way we can to ensure their success here.”

Top FC’s first few cards took place within the confines of a ring but the promotion eventually transitioned to a cage which Ha feels is a more modern setting for an MMA fight,

“Because of the large MMA fan base here who love the old Pride fights that were conducted in the ring we originally went with the ring format. But as time went on we felt as though the cage was more appropriate for the current times of MMA and the UFC.”

Top FC has succeeded as a promotion in its own right and is not just a platform for KTT fighters to pad their records. The promotion has a TV deal with IB Sports in South Korea and events are broadcast live with this weekend’s card set to feature two title fights.

In the main event Jung Min Kahn and Dong Hyun Kim (not the UFC fighter!) meet in the finals of the Top FC 155 lbs tournament. The co main event sees KTT’s Kwak rematch Han Bin Park for the 135 lbs belt while there will be a total of 15 fights on a card which is set for the Seoul Olympic Hall.

Given KTT’s location in the South Korean capital it would be understandable if Top FC had stuck to Seoul as a venue. However the promotion has expanded further afield which Ha feels is evidence of their ambition and long term commitment to the sport of MMA,

“Busan, Jeonju, Changwon, Seoul are the four cities we have done shows in S. Korea. This was due to the fact that the fans and fighters in those cities wanted to do shows there and also our sponsors played a part in us deciding to do the shows in those cities.”

There are always going to be question marks over a promotion which is formed by a camp but Top FC makes no secret of its affiliations or the reasons behind its inception. Instead of allowing his fighters to stagnate due to a lack of competitive opportunities Ha decided to step up and start his own promotion and he says he’s just happy to contribute towards growing a sport he is passionate about,

“MMA is growing significantly in popularity here in Korea and I love MMA. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to put on my own show and I am happy to have made that dream come true with Top FC.”


Check out these related stories:

A Chat with Korea's Top MMA Prospect

The Zombie MMA Team: Korea's Amateur Fighters

Awakening Martial Arts in Modern China