Korean Zombie to Dana White: 'Rising Sun' Gear Cannot Be Worn by UFC Fighters

John HeinisSenior Analyst IOctober 21, 2013

Aug 3, 2013; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Jose Aldo (red gloves) fights Chan Sung Jung (blue gloves) during UFC 163 at HSBC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Recent UFC featherweight title challenger Chan Sung Jung, better known by his nickname "The Korean Zombie," is arguably the most popular Asian fighter in the world now. As such, he embraces the role of being an ambassador for his countrymen.

Back in March, Jung denounced UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in a Facebook post for wearing a "Rising Sun" Hayabusa gi during his entrance at UFC 158. As he explained, the Rising Sun flag, which is a fairly common symbol in combat sports, actually symbolizes "war crimes," similar to the way the Nazi swastika is viewed in Germany. 

More recently, women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was spotted wearing a t-shirt with the same design, prompting a friend of the 26-year-old striker to send a copy of a letter—addressed to UFC President Dana White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta—exclusively to Bleacher Report. 

All quotes from this letter are obtained from Tae-Hun Gu, a friend of Jung who wrote up the five-page letter in English: 

Hi, Korean Zombie here. I'm delivering this message on behalf of over 800,000 members of combative sport café, one of the biggest MMA blogs in Korea. We have decided to take the time to speak up for what we know is right, because we do believe this is something that UFC management should absolutely be aware of. Let's get straight to the point.

It's about 'Rising Sun Flag' outfits. And our point is that this design is the symbol of war crimes, and that every single item designed after this symbol of war crimes should be kicked out of the UFC, firstly for justice, and then for the company.

...Let bygones be bygones? Get over it? Unjustified invasion, torture, massacre, military and sexual slavery, medical experiments on living prisoners of war and many other war crimes scarred too many people. It can never be forgotten. This is a tragic history for all of us. Furthermore, the Japanese government never gave a sincere apology, and is even trying to justify and distort their dirty, nasty history. Still to this day, so many victims are dying in pain, heartbroken, without being properly compensated

...I was happy because I thought we have succeeded in educating a chunk of the world on a very important issue, and that we no longer have to see that symbol of war crimes, at least around the Octagon. But a few days later, another UFC champion and the symbol of WMMA, Ronda Rousey was seen in that 'Rising Sun Flag' outfit. Two UFC champions wearing the symbol of war crimes! Don't you think this will be an awful example for our company, which actually does a lot of charity stuff for troops as well?  

This sport, mixed martial arts, is growing very fast. And on the top of everything is the UFC. It's been crossing borders with great ease. The event was a great success in Europe, Australia and Brazil, and now it's time for Asia. As a fighter, I'm really excited and happy to see the sport growing, but I don't even want to imagine UFC fighters in those outfits, especially in Asia. A lot of furious, heartbroken people will boycott the UFC, leading to a loss of a lot of (potential) fans, which will end up leaving a very bad impression on the Asian market. I mean, can you imagine our fighters in Nazi outfits in Europe? For us Asians, it's nothing different.

The letter also included several pictures of war crimes—what Jung believes the Rising Sun Flag stands for. The Rising Sun apparel, worn by both GSP and Rousey, were also attached in the letter and can be seen here: 

Image via BJPenn.com
Image via BJPenn.com

Rousey wore the Pride shirt in question, which is still being sold in the UFC's online store, during the season debut of season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter, which was seen by 762,000 viewers worldwide, per MMA Payout

Image via BJPenn.com
Image via BJPenn.com

Following the controversy with GSP last spring, Hayabusa, the makers of the gi in question, issued a lengthy, formal apology for the oversight, per MMA Junkie

Jung's t-shirts generally have had nothing to do with his heritage, instead opting to play off of his popular nickname, per KoreanZombieShirt.com

Given Jung's letter to White, it will be interesting to see how the UFC moves forward in regards to merchandise decorated with the Rising Sun Flag logo. 


John Heinis is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA Editor for eDraft.com.