The Ultimate Fighting Championship's middleweight division just got some depth and a potential new challenger for middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Former PRIDE fighter and current SpiritMC champion Denis Kang has signed a four-fight deal with the UFC, American Top Team General Manager Richie Guerriero today confirmed with MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com).
Kang, 31, will likely make his octagon debut in early 2009.
"I just think timing wise, it was a good point in his career (to sign with the UFC)," Guerriero said. "He's always had his eye on the UFC, but with his commitment to SpiritMC, and with him fighting for PRIDE at the time, it just never happened."
Kang, a Canadian of Korean-French descent, was a top star with SpiritMC, a South Korean-based fight promotion. Kang won the organization's heavyweight (80+ kg) title in September 2004 and cited his desire to fight for the organization as a stumbling block in previous UFC negotiations.
"SpiritMC was only asking that I fight for them once a year," Kang said back in April. "That's one of the things that I really, really wanted to do -- to keep my SpiritMC title and keep my fan base in Korea, which is really important to me."
However, Guerriero and Kang knew the 10-year fight vet was missing out on publicity and sponsorship opportunities closer to home.
"With the UFC being what it is, I think Denis knew it was a good time to get some exposure here in America," said Guerriero, whose popular ATT facility is located in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Although Guerriero didn't know the particulars of the deal, he said it would be unlikely for Kang to continue fighting for SpiritMC "just based on the way [the UFC] has always done things," he said, referring to the organization's exclusive contracts.
Kang, the 2006 PRIDE welterweight grand prix runner-up, had emerged as a top-five-ranked middleweight during a 23-fight undefeated streak from April 2003 to November 2006. However, he then suffered three losses in a four-fight span, which included a first-round submission defeat to Gegard Mousasi in the opening round of the 2008 DREAM middleweight grand prix earlier this year.