This month Ok Rae Yoon has scored decision wins over former M-1 and ONE Championship featherweight champion Marat Gafurov and former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. His previous fights had all taken place on small regional shows like Double G and Heat so it is understandable that the Korean describes the current situation as ‘surreal’,

“I still can’t believe this is real, it’s surreal. I fought twice in one month and I’m very happy I got to compete against Marat Gafurov and Eddie Alvarez.”

Yoon admitted to being a big fan of Alvarez but he nearly finished the UFC veteran in the opening round at ONE on TNT Part IV. He understandably got  a little over excited at this stage and thinks he could have ended the fight there and then if he’d picked his shots better,

“My opponent is Eddie Alvarez, he’s a legend. I got too excited.  I believe that if I had stayed calm and picked my shots I would have stopped him.”

Top contender

Alvarez somehow recovered and continued to push the pace in the second and third rounds. But once the final bell sounded Yoon was confident that he would get the decision,

“In ONE championship scoring criteria damage is the highest and I did more damage so I believe I won. He kept the pressure on and pushed me against the circle, he tried to wrestle but I defended everything. Even when he took me down I got up in a few seconds.”

Yoon was ranked at #5 in the lightweight division coming into this contest and is the only fighter in the top five who hasn’t already lost to the champion. He clearly feels that a title shot should be next on the agenda,

“I do believe that I’m next for Christian Lee because he cleared out everyone in the division except me. He beat #1, 2, 3 and 4 and I’m the only guy he hasn’t fought yet.”

No pressure

But Yoon is also aware that Lee might be taking time off due to some family commitments and isn’t putting any pressure on the champion,

“I know him and his wife are waiting for their baby to be born so I hope he enjoys that time and I don’t want to bother him but when he comes back I will be ready.”

Lee has stated that he hopes to fight again towards the end of the year. having just fought twice in the space of our weeks it would be understandable if Yoon was reluctant to take an extensive break but he says this is beyond his control,

“I will do whatever ONE Championship want me to do. I think end of the year is a bit late, it’s too much waiting time, so I am willing to fight one more before Christian Lee but if ONE Championship want me to wait its okay with me.”

Title dream

This time last month he was still waiting to make his ONE Championship debut. But Lee has obviously been on his radar for a while and it’s fair to say Yoon is impressed by what he has seen,

“I believe Christian Lee is young and the scary thing about him is that every fight he improves. He always improves.”

He hopes his next fight will be for the title,

“I will fight with anyone in the top five but they all lost to Christian Lee already so I don’t see why I should have to compete with them first since I’m the only guy in the top five he didn’t beat yet. But if ONE Championship want me to fight another one of the top five guys its okay.”

Team effort

While he really made his name this month Yoon certainly hasn’t been an overnight success. He made his amateur debut in 2013 and turned pro the following year.

Yoon did a superb job of frustrating the attempts of first Gafurov and then Alvarez to take him down. He credits his team mates and training partners in Busan for helping him prepare to face two proven grapplers,

“In our team we have a lo of great grapplers and wrestlers like Bae Myung-Ho, Dong Hyun Ma, Kyung Ho Kang, Korean Super Boy (Doo Ho Choi). All those guys are in Team Mad so I was very confident in my preparation. I was ready for anything.”

The significance of Yoon’s achievement still hasn’t sunk in. Regardless of where he lands when the rankings are updated there is no question that the Korean is the #1 contender at lightweight.

Yoon thinks that it won’t seem real until he finally gets back to Korea and has time to rest and reflect on what has been an incredible few weeks,

“When I get back to Korea I think I’m going to feel this is real. I just beat Marat Gafurov and Eddie Alvarez in one month.”