Lately, things have been falling into place nicely for Dan Ige.
In his last fight in a UFC octagon, Ige scored a first-round knockout over Gavin Tucker, needing just 22 seconds to improve 15-3 in his professional MMA career.
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Following the fight, Ige called out Chan Sung Jung (16-6), also known as ‘The Korean Zombie,’ as a potential opponent and ended up getting his wish shortly after. The two will meet on Saturday as the main event of the UFC Vegas 29 card.
At the time of the Tucker fight, Ige was eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child. Ige’s wife, Savannah, gave birth to the couple’s first son, Bam, on April 4. Whereas some fighters spend time away from their families during fight camps, Ige has been with his young family every step of the way, embracing fatherhood to the fullest.
“It’s been absolutely awesome just having him, being a dad, becoming a dad and literally my son was born into fight camp,” Ige told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I found out about my fight with the Korean Zombie literally two days before he was born and I remember the UFC called me and they presented me the opportunity. I was like, ‘Man, I’m about to be a dad any day now, I don’t know what my life’s gonna be like.’ I remember the matchmaker, Sean Shelby, was like, ‘Man, it’s gonna be crazy.’
“But that being said, nothing’s gonna slow down or stop for me so I saw it as a challenge and a big opportunity for me so I obviously I took the opportunity and it’s been the best thing ever, to be honest. Taking that leap of faith and coming home from training every single day, getting to hold my son and watch him grow, it’s just added motivation and he’s brought so much structure into my life. I wanna be there for him and I wanna be the best I can be as a fighter and as an athlete and he helps me with that. It’s been awesome.”
The main card of UFC Vegas 29 begins at 1 p.m. HST and will be streamed on ESPN+. Ige is currently ranked No. 8 in the UFC featherweight rankings, while Chan Sung Jung is ranked No. 4. It is Ige’s highest ranked opponent to date.
“It’s a crazy fight. It’s a super special fight and the fact that the Korean Zombie’s a legend. I’ve been watching this guy since literally I was in high school going into college, I was watching the Korean Zombie fight in the WEC and fight in the early UFC days,” Ige says. “He’s been looking good and he’s been a top five fighter for the past 10 years and that’s what it’s about for me: I want to fight guys like the Korean Zombie, the (Edson) Barboza, legends. I want to have these legends under my resume and I just look forward to the matchup. It’s a super intriguing matchup. Korean Zombie always comes to bang and he’s kind of like a Hawaiian fighter — he’ll go there, he’ll stand in the middle and he’ll throw down so you put me in there with him, it’s just gonna make a great, exciting fight for not only myself, but for the fans, for the company, and I really see this fight raising my stock tremendously.”
Saturday will serve as Ige’s second main event and his 10th official UFC fight since 2018. Ige’s high activity, in addition to his high winning percentage, has increasingly raised his profile in the ranks of the sport. A win against a fighter of Chan Sung Jung’s caliber would offer him even more future opportunities in the promotion, a responsibility Ige believes he’s well-equipped for.
“My first main event opportunity, it was a great opportunity and it was a huge learning experience for me. It was something I didn’t know I could do at the time, going five rounds given the preparation, I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Could I do it? I learned real quick I could do it and it just gave me that confidence, like this is something I can do. I know I can go in there, I know I can push a pace for five rounds, we have more cameras, more media, more spotlights around,” Ige said. “I try to enjoy it, not complain about it. I know I’ve seen fighters complain about like signing posters, but there’s gonna be one day where I don’t get to sign posters. I enjoy every single minute of it, every second of it and I love it. I love being the headline and I wanna go out there and all eyes are on me and I wanna shine a good light onto the sport. I’m not trying to brag, but I don’t feel like I’m a super cocky guy that’s out there talking trash, I wanna be one of the good guys of the sport and I want to be out there and put on a good show and show that with hard work and dedication and belief, anything’s possible.
“I literally came from being the guy that did not get drafted, I was the guy that didn’t get picked on the (Dana White’s Contenders) series to now becoming the first to headline a main event. This is my second main event so that’s my goal, I just want to go out there and be like, ‘I was the last pick’ but it’ll be nice when I have a belt around my waist to be like, ‘I was the last pick, now I’m the champion’ but here we are, main event, we gotta get through this guy and big things will come after this.”