Denis Kang On Upcoming Return, Opponent: “He Needs To Worry About Everything.”
By Tom Taylor
Perseverance is important in any line of work, and professional MMA is no exception. As a sport that can propel its athletes to towering heights, it can also send them careening to the lowest of lows.
With a three-fight losing streak and a half-year hiatus from the sport behind him, Canadian middleweight Denis Kang (34-15-4) has pushed through adversity and is out to show the world that his perseverance has paid off. Where others might have given up, Kang will look to rebound from his recent skid at Road FC 8, on June 16, in Wonju, South Korea, as he takes on Hae Suk Son (3-3).
Now just over two weeks out from one of the most important fights of his career, Kang took time out of his schedule to speak with Full Contact Fighter.
Following his most recent loss on December 3, 2011, Kang took some time off to reassess his career. Not surprisingly, after his third consecutive loss, he wasn’t sure what course of action to take.
“I just needed some time off to clear my head a little bit, I don’t know. My body has been banged up for a while just from training, and you need more time to recover,” Kang said. “A big part of it was just mentally, I just kind of had to reset myself. I had to find the focus and the dedication.”
Following his loss on December 3, he says he even considered retirement.
“I wanted to stop. I wanted to quit. I was like, ‘Oh man, maybe I’m done,” he said.
These thoughts did not reside in his head for long, however, and following a return to training at the famous TriStar gym in Montreal, Kang’s competitive fire was reignited.
“I got back to training and said ‘Hey, why not, because I did feel good in training after. I really didn’t want to end my career on something like that, and I still really don’t want to end my career just yet. I still feel I’ve got a few fights left.”
Now back into the swing of fulltime training, he says his training camp leading up to this fight at Road FC 8 has been challenging, but fruitful.
“I’ve just been grinding it every day. It’s hard. These guys [At Tristar] are pushing me. They know I’ve got a fight coming up. Francis Carmont, Nordine Taleb—they’re all pushing me and they’re not letting me slack off,” Kang said.
“I shouldn’t have told them I had a fight,” he laughed.
With the help of the talented training partners that surround him at Tristar he is feeling ready for his upcoming challenge. While his opponent, Son, lacks name-value, Kang is well aware of the stiff test that awaits him on June 16, and is excited to return to competition.
“He’s a tough guy. Not a lot of people know him, but these guys in Korea are tough, man, they train hard, and they’re hungry. This guy is coming to beat me. He’s coming to win. I guarantee you he’s seeing this as his chance. His background doesn’t have a lot of notoriety like some other fighters, but he’s going to be everything I can handle I’m sure, and I’m not taking him lightly at all. I’m looking forward to kicking off 2012 the right way.”
This fight will also be the climax of an interesting storyline, Kang says.
“My brother Tommy just fought in Korea, and he beat his [Son’s] younger brother, so there’s a whole angle there. He was a bit of a punk to me in the ring after, so that’s why it’s called no love lost.”
Bad blood aside, Kang has been preparing for Son’s aggressive style in the weeks leading up to the fight.
“He’s a bit more of a striker and he likes to come forward. He’s really hardnosed, you know. I’ve been working against other strikers and polishing up on those things that he does, just so I can be ready.”
While he is complimentary of his opponent’s skills, Kang feels he holds the advantage regardless of where the fight unfolds.
“He needs to worry about everything. I think I’ve got him in every department. The only thing he’s got on me is the home court advantage. He doesn’t have to travel and he’s not going to be jetlagged. There’s probably less pressure on him too. He’s got nothing to lose from this.”
Despite his confidence in his own skills, Kang says that he does expect to be hindered by jetlagged.
“It affects you man, but I don’t know, you just do it. Usually most fights overseas, I get very little sleep before the fights. Some fights I’ll have no sleep at all. You just sit up all night kind of tossing and turning, you’re jetlagged, you’re thinking about the fight. Then in the locker room, you kind of try to doze off and sleep, but it’s tough because you don’t want to wake up and be sluggish for the fight.”
The challenge of coping with jetlag aside, Kang says he is beginning to feel quite at home as part of Road FC’s roster. His clash with Son will mark his third fight with the promotion, and he says so far the experience has been excellent.
“They’re a good organization. They’re the only one in Korea, and I don’t want to say they’re the best because they’re the only one, but they’re good, man. I like fighting for them. They’ve got their stuff together, they’re organized, they treat their fighters well and they’re putting on good shows. They’re not just in there to put on a mediocre show. If you go there and watch a fight live, you’ll understand. The production is very tight.”
So comfortable is Kang with Road FC that he says it feels like home for the time being.
“For now I’m happy with Road FC. I don’t see me going anywhere else for now unless they have some kind of clause exchange. You never know, once my contract’s up, it’s always up in the air, but I can tell you that as of now, I’m happy with Road FC. They’re a good organization.”
Recently, a slew of new promotions have emerged in Asia, including Singapore’s ONE FC, India’s Super Fight League, and of course, Korea’s Road FC. This resurgence of MMA in Asia has Kang feeling that MMA is as strong as ever in the continent. While he is enjoying being a part of the resurgent Asian MMA scene, as a UFC veteran, he says he does miss competing on the sport’s biggest stage.
“You miss being part of something that exciting. You’re on the cutting edge of the sport. You’re on the forefront of MMA. At the same time, you never know, I could go back there one day, and if I don’t, I had a great run, I had a good time. You’ve kind of got to accept the way your career is going. Nobody can stay on top forever.”
Wherever his future fights unfold, in Asia as part of Road FC, or perhaps in the UFC, Kang says he isn’t quite ready to retire.
“I’ve got gas left in the tank, but it’s definitely getting closer. I don’t know. It’s something that I think about a lot, especially on the hard training days, I’m just like, ‘Aw man, this shit again?’ I don’t know though, I still love it. What can I tell you? I still love it and it’s still a lot of fun for now.”
Before Kang can think about the location of his next fights and his eventual retirement, he must first fight his way to victory on June 16. Come fight night, he expects an entertaining fight that catapults him back into the win column. While he is hungry for a finish, Kang plans on fighting a smart fight, even if that means winning by decision.
“You always want to win by KO or submission, but you’ve got to prepare for a decision. If you look for the KO or the submission too much, that’s when you don’t get it. I think that’s kind of the mistake I was making in my last few fights. You’ve got to undo to do, as Yoda would say. I’m going to take it easy, and I’m going to see how this fight unfolds, but hey man, I’m there to scrap. I’m there to fight. I’m not there to just show up and take a beating. I’m coming there to win the fight.”