Despite having only eight pro fights, SeungWoo Choi wasn’t surprised when he got the call to make his UFC debut against Movsar Evloev this Saturday in Saint Petersburg.
“I’ve always trained really hard, and I already predicted the UFC would offer this to me,” said the 26-year-old Choi, whose confidence comes not just from his success as a pro, but from a life spent in martial arts.
And considering that he’s been training since the age of eight, it doesn’t come as a shock that the Gangneung native’s path has been set long before he debuted in 2015.
“When I started MMA, I planned to be champion,” he said. “Actually, my dream was to be standing in the Octagon. I love MMA, it is my life and reason to live.”
That’s hardcore, and it’s the usual response from South Korean competitors, who always seem to have an extra valve in their heart when it comes to fighting spirit.
“It comes from our desire for victory,” said Choi, who cites Dong Hyun Kim and Dooho Choi as peers that have set the stage for South Korean MMA to make it to the big show. Yet while fighters from the nation have been making noise in the UFC for several years now, MMA is not exactly the United States, Brazil or Japan when it comes to being an accepted career path. So what was the reaction of Choi’s family when he told them where he was heading?
“My family was waiting for me to say I was gonna be a fighter, and when I said it, we cried together. I think my family might have thought this was a start for me.”
It was, and now it’s a new start in the UFC, where he will face an unbeaten former M-1 champion in Evloev’s home country of Russia. It’s a tough matchup, especially for a striker (Choi) facing a grappler (Evloev), but “Sting” is ready for it.
“My counterpart is a grappler, not a boxer, but, I promise it will be a really fun fight,” he said. “I will let people know who Korean fighter Choi SeungWoo is.”
That positive mindset is key to Choi’s game plan on Saturday and in life. To that end, he cites former two-division champion Conor McGregor as an influence, not just for his “distance and timing,” but for his mental game.
“Actually, I think there isn’t a huge gap between fighters when it comes to physical ability or technique, but I believe the most important thing is having a strong mentality. It is impossible to show what I prepared if I have a weak mentality in the Octagon. McGregor has showed a great mentality; it is a reason why he got his current achievements.”
And a reason why Choi has won seven of his eight bouts, finishing five of those wins by knockout. Another reason for his ability to get opponents out of there before the final horn?
“I’m determined, and I never wait when and opportunity comes to me,” he said. “I believe those things are really important.”
On Saturday, it all begins, and in the featherweight shark tank, no less. Choi’s looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“There are so many predators in this weight division,” he said. “I will make a really impressive fight, even though this is my first fight. Then I will go up more and more, I will achieve the top 10, then finally I must be champ. I always consider this to be the plan and I believe I can do it.
“In every fight, I will show a wonderful fight,” Choi continues. “Then I hope to be respected as a great fighter…No, no, as a great champion.”