Taking time to speak with MMARising.com, #5-ranked middleweight Denis Kang discusses the UFC, his career in PRIDE, possible rematches with Kazuo Misaki and Yoshihiro Akiyama, and his preparation for the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix.
Denis Kang, nicknamed "Super Korean," is one of the best fighters to ever come out of Canada. He is a veteran of Pride Fighting Championships and Spirit MC, and has compiled a record of 29-9-1, 2 NC, with just two defeats in his last 26 fights. He is the reigning Spirit MC Heavyweight Champion, and will enter the inaugural DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix on April 29th against rising star Gegard Mousasi.
MMARising.com: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. To begin, growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, when did you first take an interest in mixed martial arts?
Denis Kang: I started with watching a UFC video and instantly fell in love with it. I thought this was the greatest thing in the world.
MMARising.com: Was your family supportive of your decision to compete in MMA, and how much of a role have they played in your career?
Denis: My mother was pretty supportive because she understood and saw how much passion and dedication I had for it. My father didn't really know the sport at first and was a little hesitant about it, but once he got into it, he quickly became one of my greatest supporters.
MMARising.com: The early stages of your career were somewhat rocky, with many ups and downs. However, you have been defeated just twice in your last 26 fights. To what would you best attribute the change in success?
Denis: I think a lot of it had to do with my maturity as a fighter and taking a more professional approach to training. It all began with seeking out separate coaches for different facets of the sport, from conditioning to boxing to wrestling. Once that took off, my confidence really shot up and I was able to perform at a much higher level.
MMARising.com: You are a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, but have a very well-rounded arsenal with incredible power in your strikes. Do you prefer to finish fights with strikes or submissions, or are you happy as long as it doesn't go to the judges?
Denis: I'm just happy finishing the fight before the decision, but I will say that there is nothing like the feeling of KOing an opponent.
MMARising.com: You have trained with American Top Team for quite a few years now. How beneficial is it to be able to train with Gesias Calvancante, Marcus Aurelio and Thiago Alves, among numerous other top fighters?
Denis: It's incredible to have such great fighters to train with. We come together as a team and just grow with each training session. I'm now in Canada with the Revolution Fight Team and the environment is also high-level.
MMARising.com: You remain as the reigning Spirit MC Heavyweight Champion in Korea. Are you currently aware of when your next title defence will be with the company, and how important has your time in Spirit MC been?
Denis: I don't know when my next SMC title defence is. Fighting for SMC has always been a great experience. They are the pioneers of MMA in Korea. They have always upheld their high standards of professionalism and dedication to the growth of MMA in Korea.
MMARising.com: Looking back at your time in PRIDE for a moment, you had tremendous success in the promotion before it closed, going 6-1 against some of the top fighters. How did you feel when you first heard that the UFC had purchased PRIDE? And when PRIDE folded?
Denis: When Pride folded, I was a little sad, to be honest. Anybody who has been to a Pride event will tell you that the event was special and always had an electrifying atmosphere.
MMARising.com: Your lone defeat in PRIDE came in a hotly-contested Split Decision to Kazuo Misaki in the 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix Finals. However, the fact that you competed at all in that fight - with a torn biceps muscle and having just suffered a great personal loss - was a true testament to your dedication to the sport. Had you been victorious that night, do you feel that your career would be significantly different?
Denis: Maybe my career would be different, but I don't think that I could have done anything different that night. I fought with everything I had. That was 100% me in there, and probably the hardest fight I have had so far.
MMARising.com: If you were to face Misaki again, fully healthy, how would you see the fight going?
Denis: I would win. I'm sure of it. Misaki is not an easy fight but I know that I can do it.
MMARising.com: Your most recent fight, against Yoshihiro Akiyama in K-1 HERO's in Korea, did not go as planned. It was reported that you suffered a broken nose from a punch early in the fight, and that seemed to have a considerable impact as time went on. Could you give us your thoughts on the fight?
Denis: No, I got hit in the eye and lost most of my vision. I felt in control before that, but once my eye was injured I couldn't even tell how far away he was from me. I would like another chance to fight him again.
MMARising.com: If you had the chance to face Akiyama again, what would you do differently? Perhaps take the fight to the ground?
Denis: Taking him to the ground is an option, but I could stand with him as well. That is something that I would find out at the fight.
MMARising.com: You are scheduled to be a part of the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix, beginning on April 29th against Gegard Mousasi (20-2-1). Mousasi is a very talented striker and is finally getting some attention among the MMA community. What are your thoughts on your opponent?
Denis: I just remember him from the Pride Bushido days. He's a tall young fighter with good boxing and ground skills. I think he is a good opponent.
MMARising.com: Yoshihiro Akiyama is also scheduled to be a part of the Grand Prix, and both of you have to be considered as early favourites in the tournament. Would an ideal scenario be for you to face and defeat Akiyama in the finals, or is your overall goal simply to emerge as the GP winner?
Denis: Fighting Akiyama in the finals would be a very good opportunity for me. Of course, I would like to just win the GP, but if I could get a rematch with Akiyama at the same time, it would be even better.
MMARising.com: If you could pick just one, which has been your favourite or most memorable fight to date? Which promotion have you most enjoyed competing for?
Denis: Pride Bushido so far. I have been with FEG for a short amount of time, so I don't know them yet, but I think they will be just as good or better. My most memorable fights would be the Andrei Semenov and Misaki fights.
MMARising.com: It has been previously reported that you would like to face current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva in the future. What do you feel you need to do to make that fight happen, and how do you feel your style matches up against Silva?
Denis: It would be an honour to fight Silva. I think that I have many tools that could help me get a victory against him.
MMARising.com: Along those lines, what is your opinion of the current state of the UFC's middleweight division?
Denis: It has good talent, like Nate Marquardt, Martin Kampmann and Ricardo Almeida.
MMARising.com: UFC President Dana White has previously expressed disinterest in bringing a number of former top PRIDE competitors into the UFC, including yourself. How discouraging is that, and what is your relationship like with Dana?
Denis: It's not discouraging at all. The UFC is not the center of MMA. I'm doing very good in Japan right now.
MMARising.com: Looking ahead, where do you see yourself one year from now and what would you like to accomplish in that time? In two years?
Denis: I hope to be a champion, either in Asia or North America. In two years, I want to still be the champion.
MMARising.com: Are there any final comments or shout-outs that you would like to make before your upcoming fight?
Denis: Thanks to all of my fans for all of the support, and to my sponsors, Triumph United and Phiten.
MMARising.com: Thank you again for taking the time for this interview, and best of luck to you in the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix.