Fight Sport Asia catches up with Korean sensation Doo Ho Choi ahead of his UFC debut

Back in November of 2009, South Korean native Doo Ho Choi (11-1) marked his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut with a win over Takashi Matsuoka at GRACHAN’s third installment.

The 23-year-old then went on to win his next bout, before losing a closely contested Split Decision to Yusuke Kagiyama.

Since that loss the young phenom has racked up a nine-fight win streak. And with those victories, Choi has stopped his last five opponents by way of KO/TKO.

One of Asia’s best up-and-coming prospects has competed mainly under the bright lights of DEEP and has fought notable names such as Shoji Maruyama, Tatsunao Nagakura, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Kosuke Umeda and Nobuhiro Obiya throughout his young career.

With all twelve fights coming out of Asia, Choi makes his long awaited promotional debut at UFC 173 in Las Vegas, Nevada next month. His opponent will be UFC veteran Sam Sicilia, who aims to get back on track following a loss in his last outing.

Fight Sport Asia caught up with “The Korean Superboy” ahead of his much anticipated UFC debut to talk about his career, goals, upcoming fight and much, much more.

Fight Sport Asia:
Let’s start things off by Congratulating you on signing with the UFC. Now that you’re with Mixed Martial Arts biggest promotion. What does it mean for you to be able to showcase your skills to a much larger audience?  

Doo Ho Choi:
I am very happy to be fighting in the biggest promotion in the world. They have the best fighters and I will do my best to be one of them.

Fight Sport Asia:
Having made your professional debut in the sport back in 2009. Could you tell us how you came by Mixed Martial Arts, and what made you decide to choose this as a career?

Doo Ho Choi:
I was always interested in MMA and wanted to train because I was such a big fan of “Pride”.  But there were no places for me to train at that time. In 2008 when a Jiu Jitsu academy opened up in my neighborhood I started training there immediately.

Fight Sport Asia:
PRIDE is the reason why a lot of fighters got into the sport. Who was your favorite fighter and why?

Doo Ho Choi:
Shogun! He was such an aggressive fighter that always moved forward and never backed up.

Fight Sport Asia:
Let’s talk about your new management SuckerPunch Entertainment, who you signed with late last year. SuckerPunch were able to compromise a deal with DEEP/CMA to let you out of your remaining four year contract, so you could have an opportunity at competing in the UFC. Was this something you wanted? 

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Photo credit: SuckerPunch Entertainment

Doo Ho Choi:
To tell you the truth I did not know if I would ever fight in the UFC due to the deal with DEEP/CMA.  I am just so happy and want to thank SuckerPunch from the bottom of my heart.  I don’t know if any other management company could have handled this situation so well, where every party involved came out on top.

Fight Sport Asia:
Your promotional debut sees you square off against TUF alumni Sam Sicilia at UFC 173. Many fans believe this has the potential to be Fight of the Night. How do you see the bout playing out?  


Doo Ho Choi:

Since Sam and I are both strong strikers that never back up, I see this fight being a stand-up war.

Fight Sport Asia:
Sam Sicilia is a UFC veteran. What do you think of your opponent, have you found any weaknesses that you could potentially exploit?  

Doo Ho Choi:
As mentioned before, since Sam is a striker that does not back up, I believe I need to be a smart counter-puncher in order for me to be victorious.

Fight Sport Asia:
What do you think of the UFC’s Featherweight division, and it’s current Champion Jose Aldo? 

Doo Ho Choi:
I believe the Featherweight division in the UFC has the most talented fighters. I am sure fighting and hopefully beating any and all fighters that the UFC puts in front of me will prepare me to challenge Jose Aldo for the belt in the near future.

Fight Sport Asia:
Is he (Aldo) a fighter you study/prepare for in the off chance you meet in the near future?

Doo Ho Choi:

Absolutely!

Fight Sport Asia:
Having made your rounds mainly under the DEEP banner. How was it competing for DEEP, who are well-respected throughout the Mixed Martial Arts world? And how will you adapt to fighting in the U.S for the first time?

Doo Ho Choi:
When I started fighting for Deep, I was still a newcomer to the sport and did not have a large fan base.  This did not matter because I loved fighting and was having so much fun.  As I started winning fights and my fan base grew, I felt like I needed to become more of a responsible fighter.  I wanted to improve and put on exciting fights for the fans, because I was so grateful for their support. I always try to put on great fights, and this will never change no matter what part of the world I’m fighting in.

Fight Sport Asia:
Last year was an incredible year for you as you put up not one, but two Fight of the Year candidates up against Tatsunao Nagakura & Shoji Maruyama. You ended up stopping both men in the second round after two thrilling back-and-forth battles. Did you take anything away from those match-ups?

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Photo credit: Yoshinori Ihara

Doo Ho Choi:
Before those two fights I was always preparing to fight ground specialists. After fighting two great strikers, I now know what has to be done for stand-up battles.

Fight Sport Asia:
You’re currently on an impressive nine-fight win streak, that includes seven of those coming by way of KO/TKO. This has gained you a lot of fans across the world. Do you feel any pressure stepping into the Octagon with such high expectations of you?  

Doo Ho Choi:
I never go into fights thinking that I am going to knock an opponent out. I always go into fights thinking that I am going to entertain my fans with an exciting match.

Fight Sport Asia:
Has your friend and fellow UFC fighter Chan Sung Jung gave you any words of encouragement?

Doo Ho Choi:
He just said “I cannot wait to see you fight in the Octagon”!

Fight Sport Asia:
Both you and Chan Sung Jung reside out of the 145-lb division. If the chance ever presented itself, would you fight one another?

Doo Ho Choi:
He and I are very close and I hope I don’t have to make that decision anytime in the future. 

Fight Sport Asia:
Another Korean import was signed to the UFC and made his debut earlier this year, Nam Yui Chul. Did you get a chance to watch Chul’s fight. And if so, what did you think of the match-up?  

Doo Ho Choi:
Yes, I did get to see his fight. Despite the fact that maybe he was very nervous to make his debut in the UFC, I was so inspired by his combative spirit and motivated me even more to do well in my own debut.

Fight Sport Asia:
Asia seems to be producing more talent than ever. Why do you think that is, and what do you think of the sports growth?

Doo Ho Choi:
I think this has a lot to do with with UFC’s interest in Asian fighters. Even though the MMA history in Korea is short, I believe that Korea has only begun in producing some of the best fighters in the world.

Fight Sport Asia:
Can you tell us what the fan base is like in Korea?

Doo Ho Choi:
As the sport grows in Korea, the fan base grows exponentially also. There seems to be a lot more interest in MMA now since more Korean fighters are fighting not just in the UFC, but in other promotions around the world.

Fight Sport Asia:
For anyone who hasn’t had the chance at seeing you compete. How would you describe your style, and what fans should expect to see now your in the UFC? 

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Photo credit: Yoshinori Ihara

Doo Ho Choi:
First and foremost I am a stand up fighter. I will always try to improve as a technical striker at the same time strengthening my mental game as well.  

Fight Sport Asia:

Could you walk us through a normal days training at GUMI MMA? Is there anything you specifically focus on?  

Doo Ho Choi:
I start training at 10:00am for about an hour and a half, focusing on stand-up. Afterwards, I eat and rest.  At 2:30 for two and a half hours, I do MMA.  I eat and rest until 9:00pm. This is when I do conditioning and weight training for about an hour and a half. 

Fight Sport Asia:
Do you train with anyone in particular for a fight camp, or change camps depending on your opponent?

Doo Ho Choi:
I normally train with other fighters at GUMI MMA but I do sometimes go to Busan and train with Kim Dong Hyun and Kang Kyung Ho’s team. I also go to Seoul to do train with Master Lee, who is a Jiu Jitsu black belt under John Frankl.

Fight Sport Asia:
Speaking of Dong Hyun Kim. What about his incredible Knockout of the Year candidate over John Hathaway in Macau earlier this year?

Dong-Hyun-Kim

Photo credit: Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Doo Ho Choi:
I knew that he was going to win but the way he won was “WOW”.  After watching the fight, I knew that I wanted to put on a performance like that.

Fight Sport Asia:
Who have you been training with in preparation for your upcoming opponent?

Doo Ho Choi:
I have been training with Chan Sung Jung and other strong Korean fighters such as Doo Won Suh, Yoon Joon Lee and the current ROAD FC Featherweight Champion.

Fight Sport Asia:
A lot of Asian fighters have made the crossover to train in the U.S. Is this something you have thought about doing, especially now that your in the UFC?

Doo Ho Choi:
If the opportunity came up then I would love to train the U.S. There is no specific team or gym that I want to train at but I would like to train with some top level American fighters.

Fight Sport Asia:
You previously mentioned that you train with Master Lee and that’s interesting, because we rarely get to see your ground game. Do you a belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Doo Ho Choi:
No, I don’t have any belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Fight Sport Asia:
So besides fighting what do you do in your spare time?

Doo Ho Choi:
I try to relax by going to see movies and going to cafes.

Fight Sport Asia:
Where does “The Korean Superboy” nickname come from?

Doo Ho Choi:
When I was around 18 or 19-years-old fighting in Japan, my Japanese fans gave me that nickname.

Fight Sport Asia:
The only loss on your record came against Japan’s Yusuke Kagiyama in a closely contested Split Decision. What did you take away from the fight?

Doo Ho Choi:
This was the first time that I had to cut weight for a fight.  I learned the importance for proper weight cutting and how it affects the way you perform.

Fight Sport Asia:
What do you walk around at when you’re not fighting, and how do you find cutting weight?

Doo Ho Choi:
I walk around at about 170-lbs. Cutting weight is something that I have to do, so I don’t get too stressed out about it, I just do it.

FightSportAsia:
Your last bout (Shoji Maruyama) saw you compete inside a cage. How do find the experience compared to the ring?

Doo Ho Choi:
I always have access to a cage at GUMI MMA so I felt comfortable fighting inside the cage. I feel comfortable fighting in the cage or the ring.

Fight Sport Asia:
Do you have any specific goals you would like to accomplish in your career?  

Doo Ho Choi:
I just want to be known and remembered as an exciting fighter when I am done fighting.

Fight Sport Asia:
What are you like on Fight Day. How do you prepare? 

Doo Ho Choi:
I just try to have a “I will not lose” mindset throughout the day. I know that if I lose I am going to have to swim back to Korea from Vegas (laughs).

Fight Sport Asia:
So tells us how May 24th ends in Las Vegas, Nevada? 

Doo Ho Choi:
Sam getting knocked out in the 2nd!

Fight Sport Asia:
Lastly is there anything you would like to say? 

Doo Ho Choi:
I am actually looking forward to seeing the way I perform inside of the Octagon.  I will do my best to put on an exciting fight for all my fans.  Thank you for all your support!

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*Fight Sport Asia would like to thank Doo Ho Choi and Jeffrey Lee for given time out of their busy schedules.

Photo credit: Yoshinori Ihar
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Categories: Interview, South Korea, UFC

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