Super talent. Uber prospect. Top featherweight. These are some of the terms thrown around when people talk about South Korean sensation DooHo Choi. At only 21 years of age, he’s gone 10-1 over some very strong Japanese opponents since his debut as an 18-year old, including a 93-second demolition of PRIDE vet Mitsuhiro Ishida. 2012 was a rocky year with some injuries that devastated his plans, and some camp decisions that could have been huge hurdles in the career of a less-than-stellar athlete. Choi, with his ever-present Coach Lee ChangSeob of Gumi MMA, battled ahead and returned to DEEP in the recent 61 Impact, and proved once again that this kid is here to leave a huge mark on the game of MMA.
MMA-in-ASIA caught up with Choi while he’s running a dojo tour of Tokyo in the lead up to UFC Japan FUEL TV 8. Expect to see him pacing around outside the Octagon, salivating at a chance to join his fellow Koreans on a card. If that inevitability doesn’t happen soon, a shot at Kazunori Yokota‘s strap should be on the horizon.
First of all. congratulations on your win at DEEP 61 Impact, and for getting the MVP award in what was a very dominant show of your striking.
Thank you! I’m happy that I won three prizes including the unexpected MVP. But I think this fight gave me a lot of problems I had to solve.
There were a lot of jokes surrounding your appearance at DEEP 61, even by Shigeru Saeki himself. Did you make changes in your weight cutting method this time, just to make sure?
No, nothing was changed. But I have gained a lot of weight these days so it was a very hard time for me.
How important was this fight for you?
Every fight is important. But with an 8-fight winning streak, I felt the pressure. There is no ‘unimportant fight’ to me. If I lose, I can’t keep my dream of going to the UFC!
Did you study Tatsunao Nagakura before the fight?
Of course. I watched my opponent’s movement every day and prepared for him with my coach and staff, and my team’s best fighters.
Did you expect he would stand and strike with you?
Yes. I watched his fight videos many times. So I knew his punching is very good. But frankly, I was a little too lax.
How do you feel about last year, 2012, with so many problems?
As a fighter, my whole last year was a ‘slump’.
How is your condition now?
I have a little injury but I’ll be better soon.
Do you have another fight scheduled?
Would you want to fight for the DEEP title?
I haven’t considered the championship. But if I get the chance to challenge the champion, I’ll do my best and I’m sure that I will win it.
You speak often about the UFC, why do you want to fight there so badly?
Fighting in the UFC is a fighter’s dream! And of course I want to fight with world-class fighters. I can’t wait!
What do you think it will take to get their attention?
Now, my record is 10-1 – but I don’t agree with that 1 loss. And I decided the outcome of 8 out of 10 games. And an 8-fight winning streak, with a 4 KO streak. I think it’s enough for me to be paid attention to.
Is there anyone you’d like to fight?
No. But I think no one can beat me.
Alright. Then who is a fighter you respect?
Korean fighters Dong Hyun Kim and Chan Sung Jung. For foreign fighters, I’m a huge fan of Mauricio Shogun Rua.
You’re pretty big for a featherweight, and you’re very young – you could arguably even grow heavier. Have you considered a move to lightweight?
No. My class is featherweight.
How will you relax now that your comeback is out of the way?
2013 seems to agree with you, and I have to say, I like your new haircut!