After successfully defending his featherweight title for the third time at AFC 11 highly touted South Korean prospect Moon Gi Bum turned his attention to the UFC.

There is already a strong contingent of Korean featherweights on the UFC roster. But Moon was prepared to prove himself by fighting for Dana White’s Contender Series in Shanghai.

That plan went out the window when Covid-19 hit China. Moon’s route into the UFC was blocked off and seeing the opportunity disappear was a devastating blow,

“A chance like that was something I have been dreaming of and wanting ever since I started my MMA career. It is not something that comes to anyone or anytime so when it was postponed I was devastated and felt like the world was falling to pieces right in front of me.”

Moon Gi Bum and Lee Do Gyeom

Positive outlook

Due to circumstances totally beyond his control Moon has sat on the sidelines for 15 months. It’s a frustrating situation but he has maintained a positive outlook,

“I was actually able to take the time to focus on many levels of my game that I could not focus on when I was actively in training camp and fighting. So it turned out to be better than I thought, I stand here with no regrets whatsoever.”

Moon thinks it is more difficult for fighters in Asia to earn UFC contracts as they lack the influence and connections,

“Fighters based stateside have a better chance to make it to the UFC. This is due to the difference in the markets and the push they also get is different.”

Without a well known manager Moon thinks it is more difficult to get in the UFC,

“The fighters (in Asia)  think and work differently. Even myself, I did not know that there were teams behind the fighters that help them get closer to making it to the big leagues. In America, this is common and well known.”

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AFC Featherweight Champion Moon Gi-Bum (R), Lee Min-Gu (L) ®️ RANK5

Overseas opportunity

This is why Moon feels there is a need for Korean fighters to head abroad to train just like Chan Sung Jung did when he joined Fight Ready in Arizona, the home of top fighters such as Henry Cejudo and Paulo Costa.

The results speak for themselves with Jung on the brink of another featherweight title. Moon has spent time training at Tiger Muay Thai and says it was a good experience,

“I see that you need to go outside of Korea to reach the next level and I see why he goes all the way to the U.S. to do this. Actually there are great training facilities closer to Korea such as Tiger Muay Thai, where I have been to and was amazed by the level of training they had.”

However he does acknowledge that there are some good coaches in Korea,

“If I could choose a specific coach to work with, I would choose to go work with someone like Eddie Cha at Fight Ready. Right now, I’m starving to learn more new things and it is something I plan on doing in the near future.”

Moon Gi Bum belt

Unfortunate circumstances 

Under these unfortunate circumstances, Moon has opted to no longer sit on the sidelines. He plans on capturing the attention of the UFC by fighting for some foreign promotions.

Moon knows his days as the AFC featherweight champion are numbered and thinks he needs to look elsewhere to find a suitable challenge,

“They (AFC) suggested I should move up a division to lightweight and fight there and maybe obtain double champ status. They also suggested that I defend the belt five times but who else is there for me to defend against? I’ve beaten them all already.”

He does not think the Korean promotion will be able to find him big enough fights even if he agrees to move up a division,

“There is nothing for me to prove in AFC. There isn’t anything that interests me. Just look and count how many former champions from different organizations I have beaten. Also, not to mention some of my wins are against UFC vets. I was the underdog in most of those fights and came out on top more often than not.”

His plan to earn a UFC contract by fighting for Dana White’s Contender Series in Shanghai is on the backburner. But Moon does not believe he will be able to achieve his ambitions in Korea and wants to compete overseas as soon as possible,

“I want to compete abroad and fight better caliber opponents and get the respect that way.”