January, 2018
Archive

By In essay, Korea, Mixed Martial Arts

The Main Event

 

Front and center was a cage where men would soon punch each other for money. Seats inside Seoul’s cavernous Olympic Hall wrapped around it on two levels: cageside VIP tables for the type of people who wear suits to a cage fight, and open seating above it for everyone else. Behind the cage was a ramp that led up to a theater stage set up with gear for a rock band. Above, a jumbo screen showed silent highlight videos of older matches on a loop.

A pre-fight promotional video started. Clips of knockouts played as the lights dimmed. Band members crept to their positions through the shadows while the video showed mean-mugging men holding up their fists. The video culminated with resounding, ear-splitting English: “Top FC! Fighting! Champion!”

The screen went blank. A row of mortar-like pyrotechnics shot flames upward from the edge of the stage, and the band started screaming over the sounds of their instruments. They sounded like the kinds of bands most kids listen to in high school but are now embarrassed to think about–except all in Korean.

It was exactly the type of campy, weird high-production values that I wanted, but as the music pierced the on-stage flames and echoed through the auditorium, I didn’t quite feel there. I didn’t quite feel anywhere…”

 

Read more at Left Hooks

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

What It Takes To Build A Star

“It’s safe to say that the Doo Ho Choi hype train has been derailed, at least for now. After a promising 3-0 start in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “The Korean Superboy” has dropped two consecutive fights, and with his compulsory military service hanging on the horizon, the future is looking more uncertain than ever.

Luckily, even with the impending two-year absence, the 26 year-old still has a lot of future ahead of him. If there’s any silver lining to his losses to Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens, it’s that both of them are much more experienced. That experience matters. Choi was barely a teenager when Swanson made his 2004 professional debut, and Stephens debuted only six months after that. Stephens was 17-5 with seven UFC fights under his belt by the time Choi got paid to fight. That’s a huge head start. There is no substitute for the confidence and grit earned through time in the cage. Prior to his UFC Fight Night 124 appearance on Sunday in St. Louis, Choi hadn’t even been in the Octagon for more than 20 minutes…”

Read more at Sherdog

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By In Korea, Olympics

How North Koreans View The Pyeongchang Olympics

“In his New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a mixed bag of messages, for the North Korean people and the world. The speech, translated into English, ran more than 5000 words. The first three quarters of the speech were standard stuff: we have nukes, get over it and let’s continue to develop our economy. Then the tone shifted.

“This year is significant both for the North and the South, as in the North the people will greet the 70th founding anniversary of their Republic as a great, auspicious event, and in the South the Winter Olympic Games will take place,” Kim Jong-un said.

This is notable, not just in the context of the rest of the speech or the recent tensions on the Korean peninsula, but because this is a tremendous departure from how North Korea responded the last time South Korea hosted the Olympics 30 years ago…”

 

Read more at Vice Sports

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By In Korea, Mixed Martial Arts

What’s At Stake For The Korean Superboy

“The last time Doo Ho Choi walked into the Octagon was 13 months ago against Cub Swanson. A lot of hype was behind him. He was on a 12-fight winning streak, 10 of which were knockouts. He was 3-0 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and all three of his wins were first-round knockouts. Even though he was ranked 11th in the official UFC rankings and Swanson was fourth, Choi was still the favorite. Choi was a promising prospect, an exciting fighter from a region ripe with potential. Swanson was a fairly known commodity who increasingly fit the bill as a featherweight gatekeeper, boasting the most wins in World Extreme Cagefighting-UFC featherweight history but having suffered losses to the division’s elite more often than the opposite. An exciting standup affair was expected, and it looked as if a memorable win against a top-five opponent was in the cards for “The Korean Superboy.” All the stars were aligned for a coming-out party. The fight was indeed spectacular, but the result was not what was expected: Choi lost a competitive decision in one of the year’s best fights.

Choi returns in the UFC Fight Night 124 main event against Jeremy Stephens on Saturday in St. Louis. The specifics have changed, but the general idea is the same. Stephens is ranked higher at No. 9, but the 13th-ranked Choi is the favorite, albeit with narrower odds. Stephens is looking more and more like a tough gatekeeper to weed out the weak from jumping in the deep-end of the division, and the style matchup of two heavy-hitting standup specialists should result in an exciting fight. Especially since the Swanson loss did little to derail his hype, the stars have once again aligned for Choi to make a jump to the next level.

Regardless of the outcome, however, Choi faces an even larger, more insurmountable foe on the horizon: compulsory military service in the South Korean army…”

Read more at Sherdog

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