How Martial Arts Took Dae Sung Park Away From Trouble And Toward Greatness

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“Crazy Dog” Dae Sung Park is one of the most exciting young stars in mixed martial arts, and he believes his road to ONE Championship has given him the skills to go all the way to the top.

At ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY, the ONE Warrior Series (OWS) contract winner will get the chance to show he is ready to continue his ascent through the ranks, if he can rise to the occasion and win his rematch with Japan’s Kimihiro Eto.

The 25-year-old from South Korea beat his rival via first-round TKO in the first OWS event last year to earn his shot on the main ONE roster, and a repeat performance this Friday, 12 July could throw him in among the established stars of the lightweight division.

He has chased after the opportunity to compete in front of thousands of fans since he first started to watch his sport, but at one point, it looked like he would never get near his dream during some wayward years as a teenager.

Before Park steps under the lights at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, learn how he turned his life around to reach the global stage.

A Long Way From Home

OWS alumni collide as Dae Sung Park takes on Kimihiro Eto on 12 July in a highly-anticipated rematch!

OWS alumni collide as Dae Sung Park takes on Kimihiro Eto on 12 July in a highly-anticipated rematch!🗓: Kuala Lumpur | 12 July | 6PM | ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY🎟: Get your tickets at 👉📺: Check local listings for global TV broadcast📱: Watch on the ONE Super App 👉 👨‍💻: Prelims LIVE on Facebook | Prelims + 2 Main-Card bouts LIVE on Twitter

Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, June 28, 2019

Park grew up in the town of Jeonju in southwestern Korea with his parents and an older sister.

He describes himself as an active little boy who loved to play sports, and got his first taste of martial arts when he joined a taekwondo team in his elementary school.

Through his training until the eighth grade, he was a model student who learned how to carry himself with confidence and had some success in local tournaments. 

However, the same cannot be said about Park away from the gym. He was far from a ‘traditional’ Korean teenager who was focused on his studies.

“I became very angry and frustrated when I was a teenager. I strayed off the straight path and started getting into trouble,” he adds.

“I ended up getting suspended from my junior high school seven times. The only reason I wasn’t expelled was because junior high schools aren’t allowed to kick unruly students out.”

New Beginning

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Things did not get better after Park entered senior high school. While many of his peers had their heads buried in books to prepare for the notoriously difficult college entrance exam, he still had problems applying himself to his studies.

“I just couldn’t adjust to school life. I decided to call it quits when it came to studying and enrolled myself in a sports high school,” he explains.

“The high school trained students to become Olympic athletes. It was an elite school, and I trained in amateur wrestling.”

He started his sophomore year at the school when he was 18, so his classmates were three years younger, but he was not discouraged by the age difference.

He thrived in an athletic environment and got up at 6am every day, and trained until sunset – only taking breaks to eat.

“As I trained hard day after day and watched my classmates also devote themselves to practice, I noticed something changing inside me,” Park said.

“I channeled all of my anger and frustration into training and ended up becoming a brighter person.”

True Calling

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The change in mindset prompted “Crazy Dog” to jump from amateur wrestling to mixed martial arts, which he was fascinated by from an early age.

“My mother installed cable TV in our house when I was in junior high school. She wanted me to learn how to speak English by watching foreign dramas and movies,” he explains.

“I became fascinated by programs featuring fighters clashing inside the ring. I realized that was what I wanted to do. That was back in 2007, and there weren’t many mixed martial arts gyms around where I lived.”

Without a place to practice the sport he was obsessed with, he found what he felt was the closest thing to it and began to train judo – inspired by South Korean-born Yoshihiro “Sexy Yama” Akiyama.

He eventually found a mixed martial arts gym in his hometown and devoted himself to learning everything he needed to compete.

“I yearned for something stronger, and wanted to experience the scenes I had seen on cable TV for myself,” he says.

The Next Step

“Crazy Dog” was thrown straight into the deep end in his professional debut, and lost to a far more experienced opponent, but after that, he went on a hot streak.

He went undefeated in his next eight contests, which got him noticed by ONE Championship Vice President Rich Franklin and his team at OWS in their search for Asia’s next martial arts superstars.

“Crazy Dog” became one of three athletes to be awarded a six-figure contract to compete in ONE Championship when he knocked out Eto in the first round, and then proved he was worthy of his place on the global stage with a dominant win in his debut at ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER last July.

“I was simply ecstatic at that time. There are no words to describe my feelings,” Park says.

The rest of 2018 did not go according to plan as the 25-year-old was forced to withdraw from his next bout on short notice and stay on the sidelines for almost a year.

Luckily, Park was given a clean bill of health to compete again. Now he believes he will return as an improved competitor thanks to his work at the MOB Training Center in Seoul, and defeat Eto for the second time to continue his climb toward the top.

“After spending some time wondering if I’d even be able to fight again, I grew to learn that I want to be a mixed martial artist in ONE for as long as possible,” he says.

“My ultimate goal is to bring home the champion’s belt, but I’m in no rush. I’m willing to reach that goal no matter how long it takes.”

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