Lowered Guard: UFC Champions As K-pop Groups

It’s so serious on this website all the time. Have you ever noticed that? I feel like that should change a little. Emphasis: a little. That’s why I’m introducing a new series called “Lowered Guard.” The infrequent series will provide a space to discuss topics that are more lighthearted or don’t really matter.

And for those who wish to get serious journalism from this site, don’t worry. That won’t go anywhere or be replaced in any way because of this.

I don’t know how to really start this. I want to start it by writing about how K-pop and MMA have some things in common, but they actually don’t. Despite having nearly nothing in common, I find myself comparing groups/acts to fighters too often. So I gave myself a proposition – either put these thoughts on paper or never let them bother me again. And I picked the former option.

Here are most UFC Champions (but not all, I got too stumped for some) and their K-pop counterparts.

NOTE: Shoutout to Trashydrakefan from Twitter, who inspired the comparison style of article and was completely okay with me stealing his idea.

Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou – BLACKPINK

Francis Ngannou is explosive and powerful. None of his UFC wins have gone the distance. His heavy-hitting style of fighting is much like the electronic, hip-hop genre that BLACKPINK has become popular with. Loud bass, powerful horns, and punchy lines: It’s what the group is known for at this point. What’s more, a lot of Ngannou’s recent fights are short. Similarly, BLACKPINK’s songs tend to dip below the average three-and-a-half minute length for a song.

Ngannou hasn’t been too active compared to many others. The current heavyweight champ has only fought four times since 2019. His absence from the cage cannot be fully blamed on him – the current champ has voiced before how he has had to wait for fights to come his way in the past. Similarly, the activity of BLACKPINK is something that people have pointed out. Many mention how the group still has a relatively small discography, and that fans have had to wait a whole year at times to get something new. Nonetheless, when Ngannou or BLACKPINK show up, they do so in emphatic fashion.

Interim Heavyweight Champion Ciryl Gane – STAYC

Ciryl Gane’s ascension up the heavyweight division has been quite fast. When he defeated Derrick Lewis earlier this year to become the interim UFC Heavyweight Champion, his amount of time in MMA was contrasted by many with the impressive level of success he has attained.

Having only fought since 2018, with his UFC career just starting in 2019, Gane has quickly made his way up the ranks at heavyweight. That makes him very much like girl group STAYC, which have made a name for themselves since their late-2020 debut.

With songs like “ASAP” and “Stereotype,” STAYC have quickly attained notoriety in the K-pop scene. And like Gane, it feels like there’s so much we have yet to see thus far.

Light Heavyweight Champion Glover Teixeira – Brave Girls

It was just recently that we saw Glover Teixeira reach champion status – however, he’s no new face. After nearly a decade in the promotion, the highlight of his career came earlier this year. Does that ring a bell?

Like Teixeira’s long, winding path to a deserving title run, K-pop group Brave Girls saw their breakthrough this year despite being around since 2011. After a video of the group performing the 2017 song “Rollin’” to a military audience went viral, the success of the song itself quickly followed and shot it up to the top of all major music charts in the country, quickly making it their biggest song ever.

Patience paid off for both Brave Girls and Teixeira. If they ever meet (which won’t happen, but follow what I’m saying here), they’ll have a story of perseverance in common.

Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya – Red Velvet

Hardcore fans, casual fans, it doesn’t matter – the MMA world as a whole has a big amount of respect for UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. While he isn’t the most popular fighter in the world, his technical skill and consistent level of success has turned him into one to watch.

This makes him quite like Red Velvet – a five-member girl group that is often recognized for their elaborate blend between bubbly pop music and smooth R&B (the name “Red Velvet” is actually supposed to explain that contrast of styles).

Red Velvet has received recognition in the past for having attention to detail in full-length album or EP releases, making their projects an entire listening experience. Similarly, an Adesanya fight doesn’t tend to be a short viewing. Seven of his 11 UFC fights have gone the distance – but they’ve been masterpieces to view nonetheless.

Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman – TWICE

This one was easy. Kamaru Usman can’t slow down. Usman has remained incredibly active and successful since joining the UFC roster in 2015. Now 15 fights (and only six years!) deep into his promotional run, he’s undefeated in the promotion and has defended his belt numerous times.

It only makes sense to compare Usman to K-pop supergroup TWICE. Since their 2015 debut, the group has dropped a whopping 32 singles. Not only that, they’ve become one of the most popular groups in all of K-pop.

Usman and TWICE seem unstoppable. The only difference is one of them is putting fists to faces, and the other is singing Be my candy candy pop pop.”

Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira – SHINee

A decade of MMA can do a lot to the human body. A decade of MMA is resilience in itself, as the injuries that can be sustained along the way can often end a career before the 10-year mark. It’s hard to imagine someone who has been at a high level of MMA for 10-or-more years that is still at a high level of it.

It’s quite impressive that Charles Oliveira has been in the UFC for 11 years. What’s more, it’s wild that the current level at which he competes is the absolute highest. This makes him quite comparable to SM Entertainment boy group SHINee, who have been around since 2008 and are still producing classics every time they return.

Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling – aespa

Aljamain Sterling hasn’t been champ for long. Sterling’s championship run so far has been odd. It’s nobody’s dream to become a champion because your opponent has been disqualified from a title fight. But the odd start to his title run doesn’t end there. Sterling has adapted a heel, bad-guy gimmick since becoming champ, egging on the theory that he played up the knee strike to end the fight via disqualification.

Aespa doesn’t have the controversy in their success like Sterling. However, they’re still odd. They’re real-life idols, but they also have this animated lore to them? Where is this “kwangya” they keep talking about and who is “naevis?”

The question going forward for aespa and Sterling is the same – can they keep the momentum that they gained oh so recently? (Since aespa is managed by SM Entertainment, one of the largest labels in K-pop, the answer for them at least is yes. But can you suspend your disbelief so the comparison can work please?)

Interim Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan – LOONA

Petr Yan is underappreciated. Despite technical skill, a consistency in the cage and a title belt around his waist, he has never headlined a UFC card. Ever. It could be argued that the ranked seventh male fighter in ESPN’s pound-for-pound list is the most underrated competitor in that lineup.

Could the same be said about the 12-member K-pop girl group LOONA? Well, maybe minus the parts that include cage fighting. Their elaborate two-year build-up before an official debut went under the radar of many. Their ongoing run as a group has continued with a cult following that doesn’t display mainstream commercial success. However, that’s no knock on their music, which is perceived by many as high quality and genre-bending. Like Yan, LOONA is great to watch and deserve more attention.

Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno – Crayon Pop

Everyone loves a good underdog story. Success stories from unlikely predicaments need to be cherished because they don’t happen often. They’re “unlikely,” after all. Brandon Moreno’s rise to the top of the UFC flyweight division was quick and follows a pattern you don’t see in the sport often.

He’s gone from being cut by the UFC to a champion. Even in his two-title fight rivalry with Deiveson Figueiredo, he was picked by many as the underdog in both bouts. That’s why I’m going to compare him to Crayon Pop. The group’s work was different from most – critic Taylor Glasby wrote in 2013 that the hit “Bar Bar Bar” was “simultaneously creepy and adorable.” But that same style gave them a massive viral hit run, shooting them to the top of music charts.

Bantamweight and Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes – BTS

Two of the best. It only makes sense.

A track record of dominance – that’s what both Amanda Nunes and BTS have. We’re now quite deep into Nunes’ run as a two-division champ, and there are no signs of her slowing down. Same with BTS: they’re not new names anymore, yet they only seem to grow with success every year.

How long can both of them stay at the top? Probably for many years to come, who knows. But let’s enjoy them while they’re here.

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