Kyung Ho Kang is a former Road FC bantamweight champion and has won six out of his nine UFC fights. He is coming off a win but did not fight at all in 2020.

Kang was last seen at UFC Busan where he beat Liu Pingyuan and explained his prolonged absence in a recent interview with SCMP,

“At first, I had my wedding coming up, so I had to focus on that. I had to rest a bit, but I was ready to come back last November but I broke my orbital bone and then I was ready to come back again, and I inured my back.”

Part and parcel

He faces Rani Yahya at UFC Vegas 33 later this month but says the path back to the octagon from injury was not entirely straight,

“I broke my orbital bone while sparring, I got hit with a clean shot on my eye. I went through surgery and then three months rehab. After I came back, I didn’t want to do striking sparring because I was afraid of getting injured, so I focused on grappling but after two months I started striking again,” added Kang.

Injuries are part and parcel of the sport, but Kang has endured a particularly tough spell, with an old affliction continually coming back to haunt him.

“After I came back from my orbital injury my back injury reoccurred. It keeps happening and happening, it’s something I have to live with. I believe that as a professional fighter this is something that everyone goes through,” said the Busan native.

Experienced opponent

In Yahya, Kang faces a vastly experienced opponent with 16 UFC fights under his belt. The Brazilian is also a decorated grappler and won the prestigious ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in April 2007.

Yahya’s achievements make him a worthy opponent in Kang’s eyes, and ‘Mr. Perfect’ is looking forward to testing his skills against the 36-year-old.

“I was very happy to hear my opponent’s name. I had my eyes on him and I thought he was on a similar ranking to me so I had a feeling we would fight, and I was hoping to fight him some day so when I heard his name, I was happy about it.”

He is aware of his opponent’s grappling credentials and thinks this could be a clash of contrasting styles on the ground,

“I believe that my next opponent is the best grappler I have faced so far (but) our grappling style is different because I am more of a wrestling-based grappler and my opponent is more of a jiujitsu based grappler. I’m curious to see what will happen,” said Kang.

Top ranking

Despite clearly having respect for Yahya, there is an element of disappointment for Kang. Having won his last three, the 33-year-old feels that he’s earned the right to be squaring off with a ranked opponent,

“It is true that there’s frustration because I am getting older but I’m winning fights I’m on a winning streak. I’ve ben asking for ranked opponents. It is what it is. I believe my next opponent is between #15 and #20 so I do believe that if I beat him there are no options but someone in the top 15,” said Kang.

Under the circumstances Kang understandably feels the fight will be decided in the grappling exchanges and scrambles but says he is ready for anything,

“We are both heavy on grappling so I believe the fight will end up on the ground but I’m confident wherever the fight goes.”