After two years away from the cage, former ONE Bantamweight World Title challenger “Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim (12-1-1) is making his return to ONE Championship, and has gold on his mind.
It has been a long and emotional road back for Kim.
Following his highlight reel rear-naked choke victory over Teng Li Ge in October 2015, he took some time off from competition and was content with coaching the athletes at his gym, including his girlfriend. In fact, he had invested his time and energy into helping her achieve her goals, even ahead of his own personal ambitions.
However, earlier this year, things changed when the couple broke up. That allowed the 30-year-old Seoul, South Korea resident to resume his life’s goals.
“Now,” he says, “I am concentrating on me.”
In May, “Ottogi” competed locally in Korea to shake off any cage rust he might have had. Apparently, there was not much, as he needed just 23 seconds to dispatch his opponent via TKO.
With momentum on his side, Kim is back in ONE, and his renewed thirst for competition arrived at the perfect time, as a big opportunity presented itself almost right away.
“I was hungry,” he asserts, revealing how he came to be matched with Issa, who was originally scheduled to face Andrew Leone. “I asked for a match within a month. I did not know Leone had withdrawn, but the timing was right.”
Kim has had a highly successful and decorated career in martial arts, as he is a Korean national champion in Muay Thai, taekwondo, and wushu. He has beautifully brought those disciplines together en route to a 12-1-1 professional record, with six of those wins coming by submission and another three by TKO.
He will need to draw on all his world-class experience to overcome his Brazilian adversary, a BJJ world champion and former world title challenger who trains out of the Singapore-based Evolve MMA.
Both men came up short in their respective attempts to take the the ONE Bantamweight World Title at the first time of asking, as Kim was defeated by Bibiano Fernandes in December 2014, and Issa lost the inaugural championship to Soo Chul Kim in October 2012.
However, with recent wins and high-level experience, the two combatants hope a victory will put them in contention for another shot at glory.
“I think he (Issa) is the closest to the ONE Bantamweight World Title,” Kim admits. “He has a lot of experience and good jiu jitsu. He is a good partner to test myself.”
The South Korean is adamant that his return has just one eventual result, however, and that is a second bout with Fernandes – the only man to ever defeat him, and the most dominant champion in the organization’s history.
He is full of respect for Issa’s accomplishments, but he is setting his sights past his next assignment in Singapore, and on to world championship gold.
With a 13-bout win streak and seven successful title defenses, nobody has been able to topple “The Flash” just yet. But Kim believes the time he spent in the cage opposite the titleholder back in 2014 taught him the lessons that will aid him in securing a different outcome next time.
“I came back to take the title from Bibiano. The ONE Bantamweight World Title is mine,” he confidently states. “I tasted the experience of Bibiano in the first leg. The second game will be an easy match for me.”
Kim’s record, skill set and experience give him every right to be confident, but looking past Issa on 24 November would not be advised, as anything could happen once the cage door closes, especially knowing that there may be a world title opportunity waiting for them when the door opens next.