The past year has been a frustrating one for Dae Sung Park but the Korean lightweight is making up for lost time. After being sidelined for 12 months with a medical issue he is now set to fight two times in the space of three weeks.

Last Friday he stopped Kimihiro Eto for the second time at ONE: ‘Masters of Destiny’. It was a euphoric moment for the fighter who had to endure a lengthy spell on the sidelines after failing a pre-fight medical last November,

“My MRI test results (before ONE: ‘Conquest of Champions’) showed some problems. I came back to Seoul and took some time off, and the latest tests showed that I am ready to fight again,” he explained.

Next week he faces Honorio Banario at ONE: ‘Dawn of Heroes’. It is the exact same matchup he was forced to pull out of last November, and the same venue as well.

Competitive spirit

But Park isn’t too concerned about the identity of the opponent or the location of the bout. He’s just happy to be able to fight again,

“I’m just thrilled to be able to be given an opportunity to keep competing after a long break. You have no idea how much I’ve been wanting to compete.”

Park stopped Eto in the opening round at the first ever ONE Warrior Series event. The Japanese lightweight went on to secure three straight submission wins heading into last weekend’s rematch.

But the outcome was exactly the same with Park knocking Eto down multiple times before securing a second round stoppage win. The Korean might have been out of action for a year, but he didn’t waste those months,

“I spent that time sharpening my striking ability and bolstering my ground skills. The goal was to become a more well-rounded fighter,” he said.

Experienced foe

Banario was the inaugural ONE Championship featherweight champion and is a veteran of 16 fights for the promotion. He’s won six out of his last eight and would be a major scalp for Park.

The 26 year old certainly isn’t short of self belief. He was tested in the Eto rematch but says that when he is faced with a determined opponent he will instinctively attack,

“I knocked him down about three times, but I could really feel how much he wanted to win. It was clear to me that he was determined to keep fighting using all of his mental strength. In fact, his mental strength was so formidable that I had no choice but to continue attacking or risk losing.”

The ongoing tournament makes the lightweight division an unpredictable place: who could have foreseen Christian Lee would get a title shot, let alone become champion? But if Park prevails against Banario he will have won four out of four for the promotion on its various platforms and could consider himself in the mix.

Patriotic pride

Since Soo Chul Kim became the inaugural bantamweight title holder ONE Championship hasn’t had a Korean champion. But for Park its enough to simply be back fighting again,

“I was simply thrilled to be able to compete again after a one year break, and it was twice as thrilling to win,” he said.

Park says he used ‘a lot of taekwondo-style high kicks’ to overwhelm Eto. The tactics were extremely effective and if he utilized them against Banario at ONE: ‘Dawn of Heroes’ it should make for a real back and forth striking battle.

ONE Championships inaugural event in Seoul is set for December 20th. After a year on the sidelines Park is back in the mix and would love to secure himself a spot on that card, and a win in Manila would be the best way to do it.