MMA fighter becomes medalist…”I lost 17 kg and fought”

Jiu-jitsu is a newcomer to the Asian Games for casual fans, as it was first featured at the 2018 Games in Palembang, Jakarta.

However, there is one name on the national jiu-jitsu team that is familiar to fans of mixed martial arts. He is Kim Hee-seung, 35, who competes in the 94 kg category.

Kim came to mixed martial arts after practicing judo. He bounced around from Russian organization M-1 to Korean organization Road FC to Japanese organization Hit, compiling a 6-2 record.

The “fighter” became an Asian Games medalist. Kim Hee-seung won the silver medal in the men’s 94 kg category on the podium on the final day of jiu-jitsu at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games at Linfu Gymnasium in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China on Sunday.

Hee-Seung Kim (KOR) battled his way to the final in a tightly contested bout with Fassial Al-Ketbi (UAE) before falling to his knees with a one-point advantage (1-2).

“I put everything on the line and tried my best,” said Kim Hee-seung in the joint press area after the match. It was a disappointing result, and I personally feel a lot of regret.”

Hee-seung’s medal changed colors due to a one-point advantage he lost just before the end of the match. He submitted a challenge after the match, but it was not accepted.

“I lost by one advantage, but I know that if you create pressure from your position, the advantage should go in. I thought I had it, but it wasn’t recognized,” he said.

Born in 1987, Kim Hee-seung earned his national team cap at the tender age of 35.

“I put everything on the line and tried my best. I was the first jiu-jitsu practitioner to join the athletes’ village, so I made a firm decision and did my best with only one eye on the Asian Games,” he recalls.

For Kim, a former elite judoka and mixed martial artist, it was the appeal of jiu-jitsu that turned him into a medalist.

“I had a lot of injuries (in mixed martial arts). I had an orbital fracture and had two surgeries for a broken nose. “I started jiu-jitsu slowly because of my injuries, but I fell in love with the sport and that’s how I got to where I am today,” he says. I always like to have goals and challenges in life. That’s how you improve your quality of life. I think that’s why I worked so hard with a goal in mind.”

Kim Hee-seung said, “Personally, I lost about 17 kilograms in two and a half months because I’m not in my original weight class. The weight loss process was a bit difficult, but I did my best to reach my goal of the Asian Games,” he emphasized.

As jiu-jitsu only became an official sport at the last Games, it doesn’t have the same infrastructure as other sports. However, Korean jiu-jitsu has been steadily improving, with Sung Ki-ra winning gold in the women’s 62kg category at the last Games and Koo Bon-cheol taking the top spot in the men’s 77kg category 무지개토토.

Kim Hee-seung said, “Jiu-jitsu has come to the Asian Games, the athletes have moved in, and the sport continues to develop rapidly. We wanted to use this opportunity to do better and pass on something bigger to our juniors. We wanted to win a gold medal, but it was a bit disappointing,” said Kim.

Jiu-jitsu is also an official sport at the 2026 Asian Games in Aichi Nagoya, Japan. When asked if he will compete in the next Games, Kim said, “I’m not sure, but I think jiu-jitsu will improve if I keep challenging myself and do more until the juniors can step on my toes. I’m going to challenge myself to the point where I break,” he emphasized.

Jiu-jitsu was first included as an official sport at the 2018 Jakarta Palembang Olympics. South Korea, which was represented by national team selections, finished the inaugural event with a gold medal for Sung Kira in the women’s 62kg category and a bronze for Hwang Myung-se in the men’s 94kg category.

Joo Seung-hyun claimed bronze in the men’s 69kg category, and on the sixth day, Koo Bon-chul won gold in the men’s 77kg category. On the same day, Park Jung-hye added a bronze medal in the women’s 52kg category. Sung Gira and Choi Hee-joo won silver and bronze respectively in the women’s 62kg category, giving the Korean jiu-jitsu team two silver and one bronze medal.