HOUSTON — Chan Sung Jung knows he won’t have an easy return to the octagon after a 3 1/2-year absence.
Jung, back after a mandatory two-year military stint in his native South Korea, will take on Dennis Bermudez in a featherweight bout that headlines UFC Fight Night 104 on Saturday night.
Jung’s last fight was a loss to then-UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 163 on Aug. 13, 2013. Now he’ll face Bermudez, who is ranked No. 9 and has won two straight fights.
“There are no easy fights in the UFC,” Jung said through his translator. “Everyone’s tough. If I’m going to come back, I might as well fight the toughest guy I can and try to make my road back to championship contention as quick and short as possible.”
Jung won three straight fights before his loss to Aldo and was ranked near the top of the featherweight division. Bermudez said he has prepared for this fight under the assumption that Jung will be as good as he was before he left.
“Our strategy is we just looked at his most recent fights, and we’re just preparing for him to have not skipped a beat,” Bermudez said. “We’re ready for the best Korean Zombie.”
Jung said he spent plenty of time keeping up with the UFC during his time away, as well as enjoying time with his two young daughters. He said he also continued his training and did his best to stay sharp, but wouldn’t make any promises about how he’ll look when he faces Bermudez.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen once we get inside the octagon, but I think you all can expect an exciting fight,” Jung said.
While Jung was fighting at a high level before deciding to start his military service, he said the two-year break was one that his body definitely benefited from. Now 29, Jung said he looks back to earlier in his career and was never fully healthy. The break gave him a chance to get some, what was in his mind, much-needed rest.
“I fought kind of crazy back then,” he said. “I had probably six or seven surgeries. During that time, I never really had a chance to just rest, to just rehab my injuries. So in that regard, I had quite a bit of time to get a bit of rest, to rehab all of my injuries. In that sense, I think it was very good for me.”
Bermudez has taken full advantage of the Super Bowl festivities in Houston ahead of the fight. On Monday, he had a microphone in hand and interviewed Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots players, and he made the media rounds on Wednesday.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it and not worry about what’s actually at stake here,” Bermudez said. “This is a super big opportunity, a super big scene here. I’m really just trying to have fun with the whole experience. All the hard work is done.”
For the first time in over two years, James Vick will enter the octagon in his home state of Texas. Vick grew up in the Fort Worth area, and his first four professional fights all were in Texas. He will take on Abel Trujillo on Saturday in a lightweight bout.
“This is my state,” Vick said. “Born and raised here in Texas. If I could pick anywhere, I’d always fight here, every fight. I love it, and this is a big fight for me.”
After both were scheduled to face different opponents, Trujillo and Vick are now set to face each other. Vick was originally scheduled to fight Johnny Case, and Trujillo was set for Evan Dunham. The switch happened on Jan. 19, pitting Trujillo against the tallest fighter in the lightweight division.
“That’s the sport,” Trujillo said. “Sometimes stuff like this happens, and you just have to be well prepared.”
Vick believes neither fighter gained an advantage because of the change.
“It changed the preparation a little bit because of the body type and the style, obviously, but he had to change, also,” Vick said.
Alexa Grasso is coming off an impressive UFC debut, defeating Heather Jo Clark last year on Nov. 5. Just 23 years old, she is seen by many as one of the UFC’s top young prospects. She will face Felice Herrig, a veteran that is coming off a win last July over Kailin Curran.
“I was really excited for this fight, this matchup,” Herrig said. “I think I’m at a good place mentally and physically again, and I think styles make fights.”