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Denis Kang trains at M.A.I.

Anyone with even the slightest bit of interest in Martial Arts will know that the UFC held the first ever Dublin event at the O2 arena on January 17th 2009. While I didn’t get the opportunity to fight in it, I did get the opportunity to get involved.

I was instructed to look after Denis Kang, a famous MMA fighter with over 41 fights. I had followed Denis’s career online and he had just recently signed a 4 fight deal with the UFC. I was due to meet Denis when I trained in Montreal last November but our timetables were different so the first time I met him was actually when I picked him up at Dublin airport. When being interviewed he can come across as very serious so I wondered if we would get on. Right away I found him to be very down to earth and he actually laughed at my jokes! For the next week I got to hang out with Denis and look after him while he got ready for his UFC debut.

Denis told me that he is very famous in Korea because of his ethnicity and I thought nothing of it until we were walking down O’Connell street and 3 Koreans jumped out of no where, screaming and bowing at the same time. At first I thought we were getting attacked but after the pictures and the autographs, they headed off, chuffed with themselves.

Denis trained at our D.15 Dojo and I held focus mitts for him and the body shield. We also drilled some techniques. Denis did a lot of shadow fighting and used the exercise bike too. He is a true all round mixed martial artist and it was great to watch and train with someone of his caliber. I would have loved to have gotten pictures of Denis training at MAI but he was trying to focus on his fight and none of us wanted to bother him. He walks around as a natural light heavyweight but he fights at middle weight so he had a fair bit of weight to reduce and all of his training was designed to do this. Because it was his last week of training before the fight, he couldn’t risk getting injured and he mainly focused on cardio.

I’ve had to lose weight for competitions in the past but Denis was very disciplined and managed to cut a lot of weight. He had to lose over 10 pounds just 2 days before the weigh in! I brought him to a sauna at a large Dublin gym to help him lose weight. Everyone must have thought we were complete weirdos because he was sitting in the sauna amongst the regular gym members while wearing his rash vest and fight shorts! I was trying not to laugh and I don’t think he thought anything was odd. Denis stuck to a very strict diet and he had to stop drinking water and eating 24 hours before he weighed in. During this time he also had to give several interviews and get promotional pictures taken. One time I picked him up from the hotel and his face was covered in foundation!

The weigh in went without a hitch and Denis was ready for his UFC debut. Denis completely dominated his opponent over the 2 rounds and everyone thought it was in the bag. I was gutted when he got caught in a submission and lost. He had performed extremely well with good striking, takedowns and positions as well as an attempted submission, but that’s the fight game for ya. Denis was a true professional in defeat and he didn’t head off in a sulk. That evening we all went out for food and drinks. He doesn’t drink much but I’ve never seen a fella eat so much. He definitely put back on all the weight he had lost and more as he wanted to sample all the traditional Irish cuisine. Denis stayed in Dublin for a few days after the fight to do the touristy thing and then headed over to teach a seminar in Paris. I look forward to training with him again and I wish him all the best for the future. I pity his next opponent because I know that he will definitely make up for his unlucky loss.

By Robert Devane