The distinctive voice of KSW ring announcer, Waldemar Kasta, boomed around Ergo Arena as bodybuilder and social media star, Erko Jun, prepared to make his first ever walk to the cage last year and these forbidding words were spoken. ‘A Hollywood smile, magazine-cover looks and bulging muscles paint an intimating picture. That whole package will be put to a test tonight in the unforgiving KSW cage.’ Up to this point, Jun has passed each one of those tests with flying colours but he is about to be faced with his toughest yet.
As a world renowned fitness model and with over 1 million Instagram followers, it would be easy to assume that Jun has had it easy his whole life. However, this is most certainly not the case. The 29-year-old was born in Bosnia and remained there until he was two years old which was when the 1992 Bosnian War occured. Jun and his family were no longer safe living in that environment so they fled to Belgium in search of a better life.
“Thank god that I don’t have any memories of being in Bosnia when I was little,” stated Jun. “It’s strange but I don’t remember anything from when I was a child. Maybe it’s a kind of post-traumatic process. I just know that my parents had to hide me in closets and places like that so that we weren’t put in any danger. We had to run away to Belgium to survive.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing once he arrived there though. Growing up, Jun started to hang around with the wrong crowd which resulted in him getting into trouble during adolescence. Martial arts really helped him transform his life and he trained in many stand-up disciplines as he got older. A serious knee injury halted his combat training for many years so he turned his attention to lifting weights whilst recovering. During that time, he built up his profile in the fitness and bodybuilding world’s before eventually becoming a global star. It was at that point he realised he wanted to jump back into martial arts and pursue another of his dreams.
Jun (3-0) made his professional MMA and KSW debut in June 2018 when he faced famous Polish actor, Tomasz Oswiecinski, in one of the promotion’s popular ‘freak fights’. However, it soon became clear that Jun wasn’t just competing as part of a publicity stunt in an attempt to gain a few headlines. He knocked out Oswiecinski in the very first round which helped make it clear that he was incredibly serious about his venture into MMA. The UFD Gym fighter returned to the cage four months later to take on the infamous Popek Monster and displayed some of his skills on the ground leading to a second round TKO victory.
His last outing came at KSW 49 back in May when he took on bodybuilder and personal trainer, Akop Szostak. Jun’s undefeated run and 100% knockout finish rate continued as he claimed another first round stoppage at just 36 seconds into the fight. A big right hand connected early on Szostak’s chin which dropped him so Jun swarmed and landed follow up strikes to seal the win. Jun made some changes in his preparation leading up to that bout which clearly paid dividends.
“I dropped more weight to fight Akop,” said Jun. “During training camp, I was very light on my feet so I knew the contest wouldn’t last longer than one round. However, I didn’t expect it to be that fast but obviously I was very happy with the result.”
In the past, Jun has claimed to be ‘the bounty hunter’ who is looking to take out all of the popular guys in Poland and claim their fan bases for himself. He won’t get a chance any bigger to achieve that aim than on Saturday night inside Arena Zagreb. Not only will Jun compete in his first ever main event, but he will also be facing the biggest star in the history of KSW, Mariusz Pudzianowski (12-7, 1NC). ‘Pudzian’ is a five-time winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition and it is widely acknowledged that KSW wouldn’t have reached the heights they have in Poland if it wasn’t for him. He brought a significant number of eyeballs to MMA in his home country and still remains one of the nation’s most beloved sports stars. Due to some similarities in their past, Jun has been aware of Pudzianowski for a considerable amount of time and can’t wait to share the cage with him.
“When I began lifting weights was the first time that I heard about Pudzian,” explained Jun. “I knew him as being the only strongman with abs popping out! As he crossed into MMA, I continued to follow his journey and watched his very first fight. He has nothing but my respect and he knows that but I believe now it’s my time to take over.”
“I know that Pudzian mostly looks to take guys down and beat them up from the top but I’ve been working on defending those situations since I prepared for my first ever fight,” continued Jun. “I know that most fighters would rather go to the ground with me after receiving some of my power shots. It’s best to be ready for everything so I worked on my whole game for this bout. When that cage door closes, it’s kill or be killed.”
KSW 51 is the first time that the leading European promotion has ever put on a show in Croatia, which demonstrates the company’s ongoing ambition to expand internationally. That means that KSW have faith in Jun and Pudzian to carry a large part of the show in order to draw interest from fans across the country. Jun is aware that Pudzianowski is by far the most experienced fighter he has ever competed against and knows he also represents a step up in terms of the quality of opposition he has faced. However, Jun is absolutely prepared to make a massive statement by taking out the Polish legend.
“I know that Pudzian is a different type of animal and that he’s a big challenge for me,” discussed Jun. “The fight could go many different ways but I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles my punches. He has never really been knocked out clean before. There will be fireworks for sure!”
“When I think about headlining a card in a new country for KSW, I don’t feel any kind of pressure at the moment,” continued Jun. “I’m sure that will start once I enter the arena but I won’t think about that until then. I need to send the message that I’m not here to play around. In all of my previous fights people were doubting me but I always did what I said I was going to do before those contests. I want to continue doing that to keep shocking the world.”
With a victory on Saturday night over such a high profile name, people may begin suggesting that Jun could enter the upper echelon of the KSW heavyweight division. He doesn’t see this in his immediate future though. Jun made it clear that he isn’t going to chase the belt until he feels that he’s a complete fighter who could defend the title against the best in the division. He would rather continue building his record and gaining plenty of experience inside the cage. One thing is for certain, if Jun can get past Pudzian in devastating fashion as fans have come to expect from him, the sky could be the limit.
KSW 51 can be purchased at kswtv.com around the world on Saturday and kicks off at 6pm GMT. Fans in the US can buy the event on the same website and tune in at 1pmET/12c. Alternatively, they can watch the event on DAZN.
Here’s a look at the fight card as it stands today:
KSW 51: CROATIA MAIN CARD | SAT. NOV. 9 – 1PM ET via FITE
Mariusz Pudzianowski vs. Erko Jun
Borys Mańkowski vs. Vaso Bakočević
Cezary Kęsik vs. Aleksandar Ilić
Damian Stasiak vs. Antun Račić
Darwin Rodriguez vs. Ivan Ersian
Roman Szymański vs. Miloš Janičić
Denis Stojnić vs. Ante Delija
Daniel Torres vs. Filip Pejić
Sebastian Przybysz vs. Lemmy Krušič
Krystian Kaszubowski vs. Aleksandar Rakas