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Coach Eddie Cha: ‘Korean Zombie’ will learn from Brian Ortega loss; spinning elbow was game changer

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Fight Ready MMA and Fitness coach Eddie Cha arrived back home in Arizona from Abu Dhabi last week, but a few days later he was on a plane once again.

“I literally didn’t unpack,” Cha said with a laugh when talking to MMA Junkie on Thursday. “I had two bags. My wife put all the stuff out there and repacked it into one. I got on a plane, an eight-hour flight, an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from the airport to here, and here we are.”

Cha voiced confidence in his Bellator 250 fighter, Henry Corrales, as he prepared to face Brandon Girtz. Although focused on the task at hand at Mohegan Sun Arena, Cha admitted the loss suffered in the last fight he cornered still stings.

Cha served as the head coach for “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung during the training camp and preparation of his UFC on ESPN+ 38 main event fight vs. Brian Ortega on Oct. 17.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cha traveled to Korea and made a makeshift training camp for his fighter, who ultimately lost to Ortega via unanimous decision.

“That loss was a super tough loss,” Cha said. “That was probably one of the toughest losses that both of us had encountered. I’ve lost a couple of world titles in other fights – not to say that one of them isn’t more important than the other ones. There was just so much invested into it: going into Korea, staying there for two months, two-week quarantine, the hours, the time we put into it. Zombie is 34. The winner gets a title shot and stuff like that. We knew what was at stake. We really wanted that fight.”

Ortega’s performance earned him the nod from all three judges after 25 minutes of fighting. A pivotal moment occurred in Round 2 when Ortega rocked Jung with a counter-spinning back elbow. Jung was never the same.

“I remember he was telling us after the fight, (‘Zombie’) didn’t remember Rounds 3,4,5,” Cha said. “He was literally on auto-pilot or Zombie-pilot. He heard me say, ‘This is it. There’s a minute left in the fight.’ That’s when he kind of woke up. That’s when he kind of woke up, which is really, really unfortunate. I thought the tides were turning, and he started catching his rhythm and his timing in the second round before he got hit with that elbow.

“Hats off to Brian. It was a perfectly executed elbow. We were practicing that. A lot of guys are saying, ‘Well, you weren’t expecting the kicks and the southpaw (stance).’ We ran all of that stuff. It’s just things happen in the fight. All it takes is one punch or an elbow to turn the tides.”

Despite Jung’s loss in a title eliminator, Cha voiced optimism about the future. It was a learning experience. Cha still speaks with Jung on a daily basis and said he’s doing well physically and mentally.

“We just have to move forward from it (and) learn from it,” Cha said. “Fights going back to back is you don’t have time to mope around. It’s one or two days and then watch the tapes again, see what we did wrong, and talk. I’ve been in contact with ‘Zombie’ literally every day. He’s in good spirits. He’s recovered.”

Check out the full interview below, where Cha talks about Henry Corrales vs. Brandon Girtz, his wild 2020 travel schedule, “The Korean Zombie,” Tracy Cortez’s recent win, and more.

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