Truth be told, that’s not how Ige would have drawn it up. The 29-year-old featherweight fought in March and wanted some time to acclimate to life as a first-time dad. He didn’t want to jump right back into a training camp that would pull him away from his responsibilities (and experiences) as a new father.
But Ige (15-3), who headlines Saturday’s UFC Fight Night opposite Jung (16-6) in Las Vegas (ESPN2/ESPN+, main card at 7 p.m. ET, prelims at 4), has never had the luxury of calling his shots. The Hawaiian has been with the UFC since 2017 and has accumulated a strong record of 7-2, but he’s not a household name and often is overlooked. In fact, when Ige initially called for this fight, Jung didn’t even know who he was.
“There’s nothing more that I want than to become a champion, but a lot of people doubt that I have that potential,” Ige told ESPN. “I know for a fact I have that potential. … I feel it in my veins. I have the ability, and I don’t get that credit or praise because people only see the fight, they don’t see the life.
“I want to spend time with my son, but no, I signed a contract two days before he was born.”
Saturday’s fight is a must-win for Ige if he is to be taken seriously as a title contender. Jung has been a staple of the featherweight elite for years but is coming off one of the worst results of his career — a five-round decision loss to current No. 1 contender Brian Ortega.
That fight, in many ways, was an outlier in Jung’s UFC career. The South Korean is 6-3 in the Octagon, but prior to losing to Ortega, his only losses had come against the great Jose Aldo in a title fight (during which Jung suffered a shoulder injury) and Yair Rodriguez in a fight Jung was winning until he was knocked out in the bout’s final second.
Jung figures to be very motivated on Saturday, even though he is fighting an opponent ranked lower than him. (Jung is No. 4 in the UFC’s official men’s featherweight rankings, Ige No.8.) Of course, it’s a UFC main event, so you expect both athletes to be properly motivated. But in this case, that will likely be even more evident given the circumstances.
By the numbers
2: Featherweights in UFC history with two knockout wins in under a minute: Jung and Ige.
0: UFC victories by Jung that have not come by knockout or submission. He has six stoppage wins, and only two featherweight men have more in UFC history: Holloway, with 10, and Ricardo Lamas, with seven.
7: Wins by Ige since entering the UFC in 2018. No featherweight has more during that time.
7: Consecutive main events for Jung, the most for a fighter who has never won a UFC championship.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five vs. five
Chan Sung Jung’s most recent results
Loss: Brian Ortega (UD, Oct. 18, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Frankie Edgar (TKO1, Dec. 21, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Renato Moicano (TKO1, June 22, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Yair Rodriguez (KO5, Nov. 10, 2018)
Win: Dennis Bermudez (KO1, Feb. 4, 2017)
Dan Ige’s most recent results
Win: Gavin Tucker (KO1, March 13, 2021; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Calvin Kattar (UD, July 16, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Edson Barboza (SD, May 16, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Mirsad Bektic (SD, Feb. 8, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Kevin Aguilar (UD, June 22, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
And the winner is …
“Ige and Jung both have that early knockout power, stiff punches and great scrambles when it goes to the ground,” said UFC strawweight Angela Hill. “They’re actually very similar in style when it comes to striking, except Jung tends to open up a bit more often to close the distance. And that’s where he’s run into trouble. Ige, being the younger fighter with perhaps less mileage on his chin, could be able to take more risks, but he has to get past Jung’s reach.”
Check out how Hill and other experts break down the main event and predict a winner.
How to watch the fights
There’s also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every UFC card.
Saturday’s fight card
ESPN2/ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Chan Sung Jung vs. Dan Ige | Men’s featherweight
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Serghei Spivac | Heavyweight
Marlon Vera vs. Davey Grant | Men’s bantamweight
Julian Erosa vs. Seungwoo Choi | Men’s featherweight
Wellington Turman vs. Bruno Silva | Middleweight
Matt Brown vs. Dhiego Lima | Welterweight
ESPN2/ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET
Aleksa Camur vs. Nicolae Negumereanu | Light heavyweight
Virna Jandiroba vs. Kanako Murata | Strawweight
Khaos Williams vs. Matthew Semelsberger | Welterweight
Josh Parisian vs. Roque Martinez | Heavyweight
Joaquim Silva vs. Rick Glenn | Lightweight
Casey O’Neill vs. Lara Procopio | Women’s flyweight
Five more things you should know (from ESPN Stats & Info)
1. Aleksei Oleinik, who faces Serghei Spivac in the co-main event, has six submission wins, tying him with Stefan Struve for second most in the heavyweight division’s history. Ex-champion Frank Mir leads the way with eight.
2. The bantamweight bout between Marlon “Chito” Vera and Davey Grant has the potential to be explosive. Vera’s eight wins by stoppage are tied for the most in the division’s history, while five of Grant’s seven UFC fights have ended by stoppage.
3. Two former Invicta FC strawweight champions face off in the prelims, as Virna Jandiroba takes on a streaking Kanako Murata, who has won eight consecutive fights, including her UFC debut last November.
4. Matt Brown, who fights Dhiego Lima, has the most fights (27), finishes (13) and wins by KO/TKO (11) in UFC welterweight history. With 11 wins by KO/TKO, the 40-year-old Brown trails only Derrick Lewis and Vitor Belfort (12 apiece) for the most in UFC history.
5. The welterweight bout between Khaos Williams and Matthew Semelsberger might not last long. Semelsberger scored the seventh-fastest knockout in UFC welterweight history in March (16 seconds), while Williams has two knockouts in 30 seconds or less in his UFC career.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this fight preview.
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