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“In Six Months, You’ll See Me Flexing K-1 Muscles.”

Posted January. 03, 2005 22:53,   


“I am going through tough training. For now, I will concentrate on weight training to get more muscular around the stomach and legs.”

Choi Hong-mahn (25), a champion of Ssireum, Korea’s traditional wrestling style, is trying to transform himself into a K-1 fighter. From the start of the year, he was working out at a gym. He took up his residence in a studio apartment in Busan and works out at a neighborhood gym three to four hours a day to build himself up. It was difficult to reach him on the phone and Choi was careful about his words, saying, “Working out, I feel more confident. The FEG, my agency, doesn’t want me to talk to the media until I am ready as a fighter.”

Last year Choi Hong-mahn made an unexpected appearance on a K-1 event on December 31. On that day, “K-1 Premium 2004 Dynamite” was held at the Osaka Dome in Japan. The spectators gaped at Choi, surprised by his bulky figure when he got onto the stage to be introduced to the audience.

At a press conference, a day ago, Choi Hong-mahn (218cm, 163kg) compared the size of his right hand to that of Royce Gracie (185cm, 81kg), a K-1 fighter from Brazil, and even Gracie looked amazed by how big Choi’s hand was.

From mid-January, Choi Hong-mahn will focus on boosting needed muscular strength under the supervision of an experienced trainer. After that, he is scheduled to go to Japan to improve hitting and other skills of K-1. The FEG reportedly set aside at least six months for Choi’s training.

In addition, a Seoul match scheduled for March could be postponed. So Choi Hong-mahn’s debut as a K-1 fighter is expected after June. Moreover, his first opponent might be a real K-1 fighter, not just the Sumo wrestler-turned-fighter, Akebono.

Choi Hong-mahn has never fought a K-1-like game, but he is capable of a sargent jump of 46cm with great agility and flexibility. If he practices straight punches with his large fists and kicks with long legs, he could well become a powerful K-1 fighter too.

Choi Hong-mahn came out of the Ssiruem ring to jump into the K-1 league, another jungle. All eyes are on a new Choi.

Soon-Il Kwon stt77@donga.com