The UFC’s trip to Seoul back in 2015, UFC Fight Night 79, has become the center of a fight fixing scandal that may very well be the undoing of one of South Korea’s own UFC fighters. According to reports in South Korean media and picked up on by Bloody Elbow, an unnamed UFC fighter agreed to throw a fight for a payment of 100 million Won (approximately $88,000). Said fighter also placed a bet on his opponent that night for an additional 50 million Won.
However, the fighter in question eventually decided against throwing the fight.
The source of the payment in the fight fixing allegation is unclear, but the money would likely have come from organized crime. The fighter in question, despite being unnamed in the original reports, is believed to be Tae Hyun Bang. Bang is essentially the only fighter to fit the description of the athlete involved, who was described 34 years old, and winning a decision. No other Korean fighters won a decision on the November 28, 2015 card, which was headlined by Benson Henderson vs. George Masvidal. The age is also a match.
According to a report by MMAJunkie, UFC officials actually warned Bang and his opponent, Leo Kuntz, about fight fixing prior to the event. Both fighters denied any knowledge of wrongdoing at the time. However, a sudden, last minute shift in the odds favoring Kuntz raised suspicions with the UFC. Kuntz confirmed to MMAJunkie that
The UFC seemed like they knew something was definitely not right. They told me it was the largest odd swing they’d seen in MMA and last minute. They told me, ‘Hey, if either one of you guys goes out there and doesn’t fight, you should prepare to be investigated.’
After that confrontation, Bang (if that is in fact who the fighter in question) apparently got cold feet, chose not to throw the bout, and wound up winning the fight in the end. However, he soon began fearing for his life, leading the fighter to contact police, who are investigating the matter. Currently, the Korean is still part of the UFC’s active roster, with a record of 2-3 in the promotion. He last fought in September 2016, losing a unanimous decision to Nick Hein at UFC Fight Night 93.
Beyond fearing for his life after backing out of the scheme, the fighter may also be in violation of South Korea’s National Sports Promotion Act. Article 26.3 of the act states that
No player, manager, coach, or referee of an authorized sports betting event nor any executive or employee of an athletic affiliate shall receive, request or promise property or financial benefits in response to an unlawful request concerning an authorized sports betting event.
A violation of that section of the act involving unlawful activity by a player, coach, manager or ref can result in a prison term of up to seven years or a fine no more than 70 million Won. Simple violation of that section of the act can involve a prison term of up to five years, or a fine of no more than 50 million Won.
As the fight was apparently not thrown in the end, it will be interesting to see if the fighter does face discipline under the act, or other South Korean laws.