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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

‘We will come to Hong Kong – and we will win’: meet the South Koreans aiming to dominate the city’s MMA scene

Kim Insu fights on the upcoming Just MMA card in Hong Kong with an eye on following in the footsteps of his UFC countrymen

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 11:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 10:37pm

Kim Insu started training in mixed martial arts because he got sick of being beaten up by his younger brother.

It proved a wise move both for Kim’s general well-being and for his future as the South Korean has joined the growing ranks of emerging MMA stars who are making a living from Asia’s flourishing professional scene.

“My kid brother started taking MMA lessons and he started fighting back against me – and hurting me – so I thought I had to make that stop,” said the 25-year-old Kim during a break in training. “So I looked around for the right gym and I found this one and I have never looked back. I got pretty good quickly and my brother gave it away. I love training and I love fighting. I had been kick-boxing before but this takes fighting to a new level.”

Kim (3-0) fights out of the Team MAD MMA gym in the southern port city of Busan, a gym that has in recent years become something of a production line in terms of developing top-level MMA fighters. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) stars in veteran welterweight Kim “Stun Gun Dong-hyun (22-4-1) and rising featherweight star Choi “The Korean Superboy” Doo-ho (14-2) train there, as well as Ham Seo-hee (17-8) the Korean Road FC organisation’s atomweight champion. They offer prime examples of how far fighters can now go, and how quickly.

“Everyone around Asia knows about Team MAD and the fighters who are here and we can learn from them every day,” said Kim. “We heard they were looking for people to come to Hong Kong to fight. So this is a great opportunity. In this sport you are able to travel around Asia and fight, and see new places. This is one of the great things about the sport. But it is better for you of course if you keep winning.”

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Kim and MAD stablemate Kim Ryul (6-4) have jumped at the opportunity to join the card for the inaugural promotion being organised by Hong Kong’s new Just MMA group, the 10-bout Just Challenge fight card set down for Southorn Stadium on December 1.

Kim Insu is down to face Brazilian Leandro ‘Naja’ Rodrigues (26-13) in a lightweight clash, while welterweight Kim Ryul is up against Hong Kong’s Nosh Khan (4-7).

The MMA scene in the city has been somewhat hit-and-miss so far – as the sport continues to grow across the region and the world. But Just are claiming that their model will be the right one for local fight fans, and tapping into the region’s rising stars is part of the equation.

“Not only is the local community fully supportive of our MMA platform, fight clubs from different countries are also excited about the opportunities to send their fighters to compete in Hong Kong with fighters from here and other countries,” said Andrew Chan, Just’s chairman.

“Just will ensure the fights are organised professionally and that will continue to attract quality fighters to Just events.”

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For both Kim’s the idea is that the Just card will spread their names regionally and – of course – maybe improve their records. The backing of Team MAD, they both believe, will give them an edge both in the cage, and in terms of being offered future bouts.

“I moved into MMA after kick-boxing because there are more opportunities to fight and to travel,” said Kim Ryul. “There are also more skills to learn. That’s why I am here at Team MAD. There are so many fighters here of different sizes that we can learn against. That’s the reason most of us start in MMA – to learn more skills. We’ve heard the scene in Hong Kong is small. So we will both come down there – and we will win.”