Korean rising star issues challenge to the 'old' Vera

Published October 22, 2021, 6:10 PM

by Carlo Anolin

South Korean mixed martial arts rising star Kang Ji Won wants to test his arsenal next against Filipino pride and former ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera in the Circle.

Brandon Vera and Kang Ji Won (ONE Championship)

Kang, who is undefeated in five professional matches, had impressive back-to-back knockout wins since joining ONE Championship only this year.

The South Korean heavyweight knocked out Mehdi Barghi in February and followed it up with another round one finisher against Amir Aliakbari the next month.

“The next one on my list would be Brandon Vera, he’s a former champion. But right now looking at him, I believe that he’s old,” said Kang of Vera. He came from the UFC but now I don’t think he’s the same anymore. I really think that I have a good chance in that fight.

“To Brandon Vera, I really respect you. I really look up to you as a fighter. I believe that our fight will be very explosive and exciting, a very exciting fight that the fans will love. So I’ll make sure that I prepare well and I’ll be there.”

Vera, for his part, lost his heavyweight belt against Indian MMA icon Arjan Bhullar with a shocking second-round technical knockout defeat.

The 44-year-old Vera won the inaugural heavyweight title in December 2015 over Paul Cheng at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City and defended it twice against Hideki Sekine and Mauro Cerilli.

Interestingly, Bhullar was the one who called out Kang after dethroning Vera last April.

“As soon as he became the champion, right there in that Circle, in the post-fight interview, he called me out. I didn’t call him out, he called me out. I think that’s enough reason for me to get a title shot,” said the 26-year-old Kang.

“If you see the whole flow of MMA, champions don’t usually call out challengers, it’s the other way around. Challengers usually call out the champions because they want that opportunity. But for me, it was the champion who was calling me out, so I think I deserve the next shot.”