POST FIGHT Q & A
Unfortunately it was not a good day for me. It went the opposite from my game plans. Just an unfortunate result.
It was terrible for me. I just couldn't execute my game plan. I don’t have anything to say about my opponent.
The result is disappointing, but I don’t think it will affect any plans for the future. I just need to keep on practicing.
How do you think this will be a lesson for you in the future?
It's unfortunate that I lost. But you win some and lose some. I am young so I will just try my best for my next match.
Disappointed. Upset. Just disappointed. I really wanted to come out here and perform at my best. I just got caught.
The same. I knew it was a good dangerous fighter. He’s in the semi finals for a reason. I knew he was tough and had some weapons. The fighter in me, I still know I could’ve beaten him in a lot of different ways. Tonight was his night, my hat goes off to him. I still see a lot of ways I could’ve won that fight. Plans?
Get back in the win column. This was my last fight on contract with RIZIN. I’m a free agent. I’ll go where the money goes. Hopefully I’ll stay right here with RIZIN.
It may be too early to recall, but what went wrong?
He hit me too damn hard. Just one of those things. He timed an overhand right over my jab, and clipped me. I felt my legs go. I knew he was gonna come back with a knee or soccer kick, so I got the takedown. He scrambled, got back to his feet. I think he hit me again, I fell and the ref waived it off. The only punch that had me off my game was the overhand that dropped me. Once I got the takedown I felt like I was still in the fight. I don’t recall getting hit clean again after the first one. Whatever, I went in there and did my thing, it was just his night. I wish him all the best in the finals.
Was his first punch stronger than you imagined?
No. When you get to the level I’m at, there’s two punches. There’s ones you see and feel, they all feel the same. There’s ones you don’t see, and they feel the same too. Your body reacts the way you don’t want it to. Punches either hurt or they don’t.
Looking back at your lightweight GP, how would you assess it?
I am 4-1 this year in RIZIN stating last NYE. It sucks to come out here and not reach my goals, to win the GP. At the end of the day, I had a really great year with RIZIN. I’ve grown as a fighter and as a person fighting here in Japan. As much as it hurts my heart to lose, you gotta find the silver lining and grow. It sucks but it’s supposed to. If it didn’t suck, it wouldn’t force you to overcome it. That’s what I’m going to do.
Do you have a preference for the ruleset in Japan vs US?
Japanese ruleset all day everyday. Japanese with elbows. That’s kind of the fight with Kitaoka, it makes a difference. The Japanese ruleset far exceeds the American ruleset.
What has it been like with the Japanese fans and prootino?
No comparison. Japanese fans are the best in the world. They're the most educated, they respect fighters. Whereas in America it's so fair-weathered. They’re so focused on your wins and how popular you are. They’re so uneducated. Fighting in Japan is the best in the world. I’ve fought in Mexico, Brazil, USA. Japan is the best place to fight.
It’s undeniable that this was the best year of your career. What are some of the silver linings?
Mainly just the growth I’ve had as a martial artist. This is my 13th year as a professional fighter. You get to this point where you think you have it all figured out. But you’re humbled. If you’re improving. The biggest takeaway is my growth and consistency. This is the most fights I’ve had in a calendar year. Before it’s like I’d fight, and I wouldn’t fight for 3 or 4 months. The biggest thing is being consistent with my training. Also just enjoy everything. I’ve got a pretty sweet life. I love being on the biggest stage. RIZIN has catapulted that thirst and desire. It’s come full circle. I’ve seen things, I’ve been there. This whole year, the fanbase here in Japan, growing as a man and as a fighter.
Ideally, you stay here? Fight the winner?
That’d be great. Lets run Gustavo. Lets run that one, then I think I got a good argument to fight the winner. Or even a Tofiq rematch. I’d love to run that back.
Do you feel like this loss has relieved some pressure for you to focus on things outside of MMA? This loss has fueled me to train. I have things outside of fighting. I own an MMA promotion back home in Iowa. The goal is to help up and coming fighters. It’s always something I ‘ve been passionate about. I'll always put my energy and focus on that. Now that I have some time, my girlfriend is fighting in March. She’s helped me, I’m really looking forward to using this time to help her get a win. Just focus on my training and Just getting better.
What is your prediction for the final?
It’s gonna be a great fight. I don’t care who wins. I’m not being bitter. I wish them both luck, honor and I wish they put on a hell of a fight. That’s it.
Amp The Rocket
Only one word. I’m tired. I’m also very disappointed.
She was very strong. I think each move she had was close to perfection. Maybe I thought I had more stamina, but that was my mistake.
This is my 2nd time in RIZIN. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and the Japanese fans. I will probably fight in DEEP and continue training in Thailand. I wish to come back here much stronger. If I could, I would like to ask RIZIN to give me the opportunity to look for a win in Japan.
Normally you start aggressively. Miyuu started coming in to you. Was that a reason you lost?
I had Muay Thai experience, so I wanted to use it and put pressure on her. But Miyuu had experience, before I could do that, she took me down. I underestimated her skills. That was probably the reason for my loss.
The last match I had, I lost. I was relieved that didn’t continue.
I thought she’d use more kicks. I think I was waiting too much for her kicks. I wanted to stand. But the fact that I can go forward with my standing, it was a little bit disappointing. She had her hand coming in from all different places, so I needed to keep my calm and concentration.
Just keep on going, one match at a time. The results will follow.
Talk about this year. You had a grappling match, then beat Kanna, lost in October and won today. How does it feel to beat someone 22 years younger than you?
It’s been great. I lost some I won some, but its my life and my journey. I’m happy. Yes, she’s the same age as Erson. She called me mom after the fight. It doesn’t matter, we’re fighting in the same ring. But after the fight I felt like I beat up my daughter. She’s tough, her grappling is very good.
Do you feel you’ve evolved this year?
I did pretty good. I’m happy. My team won on the 29th. I was nervous as the last one. I wanted to finish strong. We did it! Krazy Bee won, spike22, we did it.
You won by decision. Did you want to finish the fight?
Not everything goes as planned. All of the coaches are critical after the match. I just need to keep on studying match by match.
Your team all won. What did you think of the 3 fights?
I was happy that they won. I had a huge pressure on me because I’m the last one. We wanted to finish strong this year. I’m glad we did it. I’m happy.
Did you feel disappointed about the end of the 3rd round?
All of my coaches were staring at me. I heard my coaches yelling for a kimura. I’m kind of doubting my grappling. Next time, yes.
We saw Rampage vs Fedor. Both guys are in their 40s. You are 45, and showed a great performance. Was there an inspiration?
They’re younger than me? Well, I don’t know. I’m shocked. I’m happy I’m still fighting. Age is just a number.
How are you planning to spend the new years? What are you planning to do for your next match?
This year, we gave up Christmas. I promised the kids we’ll have Christmas somewhere. We’ll have a late Christmas, I’ll go back to Guam and train again. If I’m called up, I’ll come back again.
You have the 2nd most total fight time ever in RIZIN. What do you think about that?
I wish I could finish my fights earlier. At least I don’t get tired!
I’m relieved that I got the win. The finish wasn’t what I was looking for. I’m not satisfied with my fight.
I felt his strategy. It was well planned. He was very careful. I couldn’t go in as I wanted to.
I’d like to win the world series. I would like to have a match in RIZIN next year also.
Your strategy, maybe this year your punches to the body looked great. Did he defend well?
Yes that was pretty good.
Review your year?
Beginning of the year, my match with RISE wasn’t as I was hoping for. I wasn’t satisfied. From the first round it was difficult. My last match I was able to win. As a whole, I think it was satisfactory. I wish I could’ve had more matches that the fans could enjoy next year.
Any fighters you would like to fight?
There are many good fighters in K-1. Same weight class, I like to raid my weight class. I’m willing to fight 65kg. Please look forward to that next year.
It was a good year for your career. You won the RISE tournament. You won against strong opponents today. What kind of Shiratori would you like to show next year?
I think I’m becoming much more excited. I’d like to lead next year. I need to win the world series and go to different weight classes.
If you were to fight Taiga again?
I don’t think I’ll fight him again. I think Taiga is not gonna stop here. He could grow much more. He’s one of the fighters that we could see more. We need to energize kickboxing. If he gets more experience with other kickboxers, maybe the time will come. I won’t request a rematch.
I didn’t think it would end like this. That’s about all I can think of.
His knees, I thought he was looking for that. He caught me.
I can’t finish like this. I just had to start from 0 again. Start from 0 and just try hard. More training, and start winning again.
What was the gameplan?
We planned to do things that he would think I might be doing. If I try to go in he’ll try to look for a counter. But I thought of throwing some kicks in there. I was feeling confident during the match. It’s unfortunate. You wanted to start aggressive from the first round. But it looked slower than planned.
That was one of my strategies.
Are you satisfied with the result?
I think he just got me. I lost, I can’t say anything more about that.
I think I fell into his submission.
I thought he’d come out like that. It’s as I imagined.
I’m losing more this year, so after this I really can’t think much. I might take a bit of rest and then think while I rejuvenate.
Where did you make a mistake?
I reacted late to his front choke. I thought his precision was very good.
Was there anything else?
No, I thought I would be able to take him down. But he was strong. He finished where he needed to.
Where do you need to enhance?
I think if I don’t improve in every aspect, I won’t be able to win.
Just before the finish, you stood up from the ground.
It was just a result of the sequence, I had to be under him. I think he was prepared very well.
I feel great. I just go out there and put him away. He hasn’t been finished in 8 years. I wanted to go out there and make a statement.
There’s a lot of emotions going into the fight. I don’t want to deter that from the respect I had for Yuki and his game. In order to do what I do, I have to be confident in myself. I want to be respectful. He was tough, hes a game opponent, he’s one of the best Japanese fighters in my weight class. I really respected him. We worked so much on defense. When he threw that triangle up, I knew the defense I needed to use, because he’s so dangerous there.
I’m very young, I’m only 26 years old. I like to stay busy, 6 years straight this is my 24th fight. 4 fights a year. I just turned 26, I just wanna get back to the gym, see my daughter and keep training and getting better. I’m on a 24 fight win streak and I’m getting better. I want to chase titles, that's my future.
Tell us how it feels during the intros?
It’s incredible. This experience was like no other fight I’ve ever had. IT was the best experience I’ve ever had. The crowd, promotion, fireworks, it was amazing. I try to live in the moment and soak it all in. Nothing premeditated, it was all on the fly and trusting my coaches and training. It was amazing to walk out in front of these people in this arena. It’s an amazing time to be alive, to do this in Japan, fight on one of the biggest cards of the year. I’m a huge fan of RIZIN and how the Japanese do it out here. The culture out here is amazing.
Later tonight, there’s a title fight and there’s no champion in Bellator. Do you feel like you’re #1?
Yeah for sure. I look at my body of work, and I think I should be at the top of the list for that shot. Look at the other guys, look at me, 10 finishes, 8 in the first round. I just represented Bellator in Japan. My team wants nothing less than the title. We are patient and whatever comes my way are bigger opportunities now. Bellator title, RIZIN title, all these titles that are out there. It’s not my main focus, my main focus is getting better and having fun. The big fights will come with it.
When are we gonna see you throw some hands?
I don’t know. I just go, fight and adapt. I got hands, I can do it in my fights, I’ve dropped people. As I pressured him, I cornered him, we got into a grappling exchange. Like I said, I have a family, I’m tryna get out there as healthy as possible. I’m not trying to take unnecessary risks. I like to control fights. That’s my main focus, to control my opponent. As long as I can control myself, I can control my opponent very well.
I feel outstanding. It’s been a dream of mine since I started MMA to fight in Saitama on NYE. Knocking out a Judo champion in one round. I’m excited to move on to 2020.
I think what happened was what I planned on. We drilled it in the back, he circled to my power. He tried to strike, so I took advantage of that.
I said it in the ring. 2019 was great, I signed a multi-fight deal and the next step is fighting for the belt. Whichever weight class, one of those belts will be mine by 2020.
You fought the champ. This year you started at AFC, and ended the year at NYE on RIZIN with a KO win. Talk about the year.
It’s like you said. It’s been a crazy year for me. My first fight was Alaska. I took the fight so we could move to Australia. I thought the fight career was on its downswing. I didn’t know much about the gym out there. Turns out we came across a great gym. You might now it because of Craig Jones. It’s a great scenario for me. It’s been amazing to think your career is at its end, and everything got flipped on its head. I went from fighting in front of 700 in AFC people to knocking out an Olympic hero on NYE in Saitama!
You have no problem making 205. There’s openweight. Are you the happiest at openweight?
This weight is where I feel the best. Fighting at 205 means I have to be a professional but I’m not killing myself at 105. I woke up at 102 which is the weight I walk in at at 93. Put it out there. If they want to put on a 105 grand prix, I’m all about it, let’s do it.
Bellator. Who do you want to fight?
Send your best. They wanna send me someone? Lets do it in Japan. I got a connection with Hawaii, but I love these rules. I’m not made for the unified rules system. If Fedor or Rampage want to fight, bring your fatass down, we’ll meet at 105, but it’s gotta be in Japan. This is the ruleset, we’re really fighting. Every fighter says the rules and fans are better here. What is it about that that makes you a happier fighter?
The fans, man. You gotta give them the credit up front. They’re unbeatable. They’re knowledgeable to the point that they cheer for passing a guard. They respect the fact that we go out there on the line. When it comes to the ruleset, why should I hit you standing but not on the ground? This is the purest ruleset to do it. They allow elbows. This is the cleanest, best and most violent thing that exists on the planet. I’m stoked to be part of it.
You’re watching the TV, and you want to fight Jiri. You were scheduled to fight Ivan. Do you still want to fight these guys?
Absolutely. At the end of the day, I want to put on the exciting fights, but the focus is on getting that belt. That dude is an ice cold killer. I didn’t fight my best fight. I guarantee you 2020 we’ll see each other. Simon Biyong, let’s do it.
How was the beer?
I need about 6 more. It’s gonna be a long night. Thank you guys, I love you all.
My head hurts.
I think I’ll get a title shot. I just have to keep on fighting good matches.
It’s a war. You had 3 fights; Horiguchi, Motoya; and Shintaro. Did you expect to fight those 3?
I grew up watching PRIDE. Of course fighting in RIZIN, I’ve always been feeling to give inspirational fights here in RIZIN.
Was it as you had planned?
No, I wanted to use more tackles and the ground game. But, the crowd pushed me into a striking match. You were willing to use 3 rounds, and it went full distance. Was that as planned?
To say the truth, I don’t think there are any gameplans to go 3 rounds. It was just the result.
You won a split decision. How were you feeling during the judgement?
I thought it could’ve gone both ways.
Who would you like to fight?
Whoever. I don’t mind. I just want to win against everybody.
You were trying to get a takedown.
I think Ishiwatari would be throwing punches, so I thought maybe duck under his punches and get inside to take him down. It was the other way around I guess. I kept on throwing wild punches. But that was my plan.
I’m feeling good, great. I just want to say thank you to Japan and RIZIN. To my team, my family, my wife, my management. Let’s go.
My impression from the moment I still have the adrenaline. The only thing I can say is I have so much respect for my opponent, I hope he has a quick recovery. I’m ready to fight again. I hope RIZIN will find me another opponent for next year.
I don’t know all the light heavyweights in RIZIN. I think there is a matchmaker, and I’ll let him do his work. If RIZIN thinks I deserve a title shot, I’m ready. Or any opponent, I just want to fight.
Your opponent, was he tougher than you thought?
I can say my opponent was dangerous on the feet. He’s a veteran kickboxer. I came here with a game plan. I knew my opponent doesn’t have wrestling and grappling. I executed the game plan, I brought him down and finished him with ground and pound.
How close was the armbar?
I felt it for a moment, but fortunately, my opponent was not in a good position to capitalize on the armbar. I just had to wait and put some other shots to take my arm. But my opponent was so close, I said in my mind, “not today”.
You’ve been fighting for 2 years. He has more than 30 fights. What does it say about you?
I don’t want to put myself too high, but I can say doing MMA for just 2 years with a basketball background, I have maybe a future in this sport. I need to learn more, because I love this sport. I think after this fight, I’m going straight to the gym to put the work in, and add some tools to bring exciting fights here in Japan or around the world.
You’re representing Cameroon. People compare you and Francis. You guys are doing a great job. I don’t want to compare myself to Francis, because he’s my brother and I support him. We’re doing the same work. I’m proud to represent my country, Africa, my team, and my management. I think maybe if I got some more opportunities to fight, I will get more experience and become that guy who changes the MMA game in Africa.
Are you supporting your fellow African, Manel Kape tonight?
Of course, and new!
It’s not New Years yet, but I’d like to say happy new year. I was planning to fight on the ground and get a win. My ground wasn’t very good and he hurt me on the ground. He started punching. It’s a disappointing result. When I was standing I felt I was better. Then gradually I wanted to bring him on the ground. It was a disappointing result. I fought in RIZIN twice and lost twice. I don’t really feel negative about it. I just need to move forward. I can win and have my fans have an enjoyable result. Maybe next time I can do better. I think I need to improve my skills to become a well-rounded fighter.
I think he was a very good fighter. I think he’s done very well so far. He’s a very strong fighter.
In the future, I just had my match so I will take a little bit of a rest. Start my training and I would like to take in some kickboxing skills into the training. Happy new year!
My shin hurt a little bit. I think I had a good match so I feel super good.
I think it was a clever fight. We shook hands after the fight. It was very good.
I would like to continue with RIZIN and continue collaborating with Bellator. RIZIN has been a big part of my career. The kind of offer I get depends on different organizations. I would need to consider and watch how negotiations go. I’ve just finished my match. How my future is going to progress, I’d like to take some time to consider.
There’s been some reports that you might leave RIZIN after this match. Do you want to comment on that?
There is nothing. I will probably be even discussing it with different people. Just for me personally, I want to fight good fighters, that’s my wish. In order to do that I need to see where those fighters are.
How do you feel about defending your title?
I just keep on improving. That’s how I feel. I look for the best conditions, the best offers, that’s what I’m looking for. I need that to keep my motivation going. I want to fight excellent fighters. I feel for myself that I have a very bright future.
Do you feel like you are the best in the 205 worldwide?
I still feel I need to prove myself. Still, because my opponent today wasn’t better than me. He wasn’t the best in the world. I need the guy who keeps the game on the best level. That’s my vision, to go for these opponents and win these fights. Now I can say that I feel in a fight like now, it’s for me normal, I feel good and I just see the targets. This opponent didn’t make me feel in danger. I didn’t feel the danger, I just felt the opportunities to end this fight. I need to feel from my opponent, that he is dangerous. That he can win.
What do you feel you need to work on?
This is not about what I need to work on technically. Maybe a better ground game and jiu-jitsu. Something like that. Now it’s about the moment in the ring. I need to keep myself on the best feeling. Today it wasn’t for me, I didn’t feel so good I must keep discipline. I need to feel I want it. When I feel this, everything happens like nothing.
You trained in Brazil, and Czech Republic. Many fighters say they need to go to the USA. Or did you think you can train elsewhere?
This is so important for some people. To drill everything, to keep discipline, to have the best discipline. But I see everything about fighting. You need to know yourself. When you know who you are, then everything is easy. You breath easily, you work hard easily, you can keep focus for winning. For punches, everything is possible. I go for this way with another will. In training it’s not that you need more hard conditions. But you need to feel yourself, how you are to fight. You have to know yourself, and you have to have your own personal goals. In order to get to that feeling, you need to perfect your fundamental moves. Those are very important in reaching excellence in your skills. It’s like Japanese sushi. Rice, a piece of fish makes a perfect cuisine.
I was a little disappointed in my performance. He caught me, I felt like the fight was going good. I wish I would’ve used my wrestling a little more. I landed my calf kick, he adjusted and caught me, the fight was over.
Not really. I just kinda wish I would’ve fought differently. I didn’t expect him to pressure me. I thought I was going to have to track him down. My game plan was to kick the calf early and go for a takedown. I should’ve adjusted. I didn’t make the proper adjustments. Hats off to him. What can you do?
I’d definitely like to come back here and fight. I had some ring rust, but I felt comfortable there. I’d love to come here to Japan. Take a little time, I don’t really feel like I need to heal up. Get some training in, and I’d love to come back and fight as soon as possible.
What is your feeling right now as champion?
Since I’ve been fighting in RIZIN all the fighters are tough. The training has bloomed today with this victory. I need to keep training harder.
What are your plans for 2020?
What I want is to fight the best fighters. If I keep on going, I’ll find out where I am on the world class level. I was able to win this tournament because my training partners, my team, my trainer, their advice was very good and helpful in training. It was because of them I was able to win this title.
Which finger did you break?
That’s my strong hand. So it’s a very tough match. The back of my hand. Not a finger.
But you still threw punches?
Even after I break my hand I was able to win. I strived to win. I’m proud of myself. I’d like to dedicate this win to the people and president of Azerbaijan. The 24th was the president’s birthday. I would like to thank the Japanese media and Japanese fans. I love the country of Japan.
How many times would you like to defend your belt?
I hurt my hand, so first I’d like to heal my hand. Then come back to RIIN and show my fights again. I think RIZIN is number one.
It was a very tough match. Of course Tofiq was very strong. That yellow card in the second round I thought I was better. Maybe the 3rd round I might’ve lost position. I feel disappointed.
I knew he was a very strong fighter. I thought it would be one of my most difficult matches.
I’ll take a bit of rest, spend time with my family. I won’t be able to fight earlier in the year. I’ll start training in June/July. It’s too early to come back. I broke my finger today.
Your right hand is broken in the first match?
Yes, the first match.
Tofiq also broke his hand in the first match.
I knew in the 2nd round when I was on the offense, when he was on the offense, his face seemed hurt. Then he came to tackle my lower body. He had something wrong with his hand.
What was Tofiq’s strong points having actually fought him?
I think he’s a complete fighter. Today his game plan was better. He used the high kick and control over me.
Would you like to have a rematch with him in a Bellator cage?
Yes, of course.
You broke your hand. Did that affect your offense?
I didn’t have any trouble. I wanted to have more striking, so that had an effect on me.
How did you feel fighting in Japan this year?
I like it. The fact I was able to fight in Japan there are no words to explain it. There are no better fans. Coming here meeting the fans in Japan. I will continue matches that would remain in history like today.
I was worried. There were concerns, but I believed in my team and myself. I’d like to bring a good result to all of the supporters that I had.
She had fight in her. I felt that she had been studying me. It was really fun during the match. Maybe she could’ve just not accepted this match but I appreciate the fact that she did.
Losing this match put me in a dark tunnel. I finally escaped. For the moment, I’m just exhausted. I can’t say much about my future but I am going to think about what I need to do in training for 2020.
After the first round, you were not so aggressive but from the 2nd round you got more aggressive.
The first round I got tackled. There were some bad situations. I felt I gave a bad image. I was able to put that switch on in the 2nd round. Before the 3rd round my coach slapped me in the face and I woke up. You fought Kanna twice, and you weren’t able to revenge but now you were.
I don’t know. I’m just full of different reactions right now. I’ll have to look back on my video and see the details. I don’t know what the definition is, so I’d like to chase that. When you stop chasing it becomes wrong. I think you’ll end as a fighter.
When she took you down, did you have any worries?
No, not really. I was able to fight back from my back in training. I was able to do it in the match. It really did not affect me mentally. I would like to become a fighter that can win underneath.
Were there any other concerns in the match?
No. She really studied my style, and I was able to get my strikes in. At the end I was able to pound her and finish. That was the first time in my career, I’m happy about that. I think this match was a very good experience.
Lindsey wants a 3rd match.
Yes. She didn’t run away from me, so I’d like to face her again. It doesn’t matter if it's in the US or not.
You mentioned the loss of your friend.
She was a breeder of my dogs. She took care of my dogs when I had matches. I know she was fighting for her life. I just cannot forget her smile and her laugh. I heard that smile and laugh in my mind today. I wanted to win for her very badly. I think she saw me from above.
Was that takedown something you felt?
It was accidental. She fell by herself. Next time I’d like to take advantage of that position and move. The things that I have taken in the past, the moves and punches. Those skills I learned from those and I’m gradually able to show that through my practice.
Hamasaki you’ve faced before. She lost the belt. How do you feel about that? Would you like to face Seo Hee Ham?
She’s a striker, so I think it could be a good match. I haven’t thought seriously about it.
You haven’t had a shootboxing match this year. How about next year?
I think I need to return to shootboxing. I would like to go back home next year but it depends on the schedule of RIZIN also.
I’m disappointed in my performance. I’m happy to be here to gain experience. I’m blessed that I got to be here on the biggest fight card of the year. You win some you lose some.
She had a good game plan, she came out strong. I was ready for it all, it just wasn’t my night. I have a lot to work on and maybe there’ll be a third!
Take a couple months and get better, work on things I need to work on. I had 5 fights this year but there’s things I need to fix. It’s going to be a big year for me.
Was it your corner that stopped the fight?
I don’t know.
Do you think the stoppage was early?
I was still moving, I wish it hadn't stopped, she was in a dominant position so I understand it. I wasn’t improving, it is what it is.
Was there a size advantage?
I think that definitely played a role, but it's no excuse. I gotta get stronger. A fight is a fight, and I lost. I gotta take that, move forward, it is what it is.
RENA went for a takedown in the 2nd round. You put her in a bad spot. Were you surprised? How close was the submission?
That’s gonna haunt me. I was so close to finishing. It was tight, I could hear her breathing heavily. I had to throw some elbows, I was trying to go for the armbar and triangle. I gotta work on that. It’s gonna be rough to take for a while.
You fought RENA twice. How would you evaluate her?
I always respected her as a fighter. She’s amazing. I still think that I’m more well rounded. I made mistakes and once I fix those I want a third to prove that I’m better.
It was a very good match. My opponent was really strong. I think the match went as I hoped. I think the fans were entertained. I wanted to show the fans a very good match. The Japanese fans have a very nice league. I’d like to have another chance to fight in Japan. It was a disappointing result but I’ll try to get better.
It would be a very strong opponent. Not a different impression. It was a difficult match. We exchanged some words after the match. Some advice. He showed his appreciation so I think he’s a respectable person. I think he was an excellent fighter.
You smiled during the match. What was the feeling then?
I remember that we were exchanging strikes. It was very hard. I hit him back and he smiled. Both of us had some smiles and enjoyed the match. It was a very good match
It was a tough match. You hit him with many punches. He seemed more aggressive. He started slow today. Your impression?
It was a very tough striking match. The game plan I had was to throw punches and kicks. He had his plans. He was fighting well against it. We smiled, but those punches and kicks I had. I’d like to make my precision much better. I think it was an excellent match.
How were the takedowns?
I usually fight in the cage. I wasn’t used to fighting in the ring. He knows how to use the ropes, I took him down once but he stood up right away. So I think that was good for him. I think his opponent back then put him back to the cage and that was effective.
I think it was a perfect win.
He was much tougher than I thought. He was taking my punches.
I’d like to make MMA much more popular so I’d like to have more fights in the future.
What kind of game plan did you have this time?
The opponent has a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I wanted to avoid his takedowns. I thought that the punches and kicks were able to stay above him. I felt that strikes were very strong, but his eyes did seem to die so he was a very tough opponent.
What do you think after fighting global top level fighters?
His punches were slow. I was able to see all of his punches and kicks. He was 30 and 4. I’m the 5th person to beat him. I’m the same level as the other 4.
Thoughts on your brothers fight?
That was the worst. It was something that just happened. Manel Kape has better eyes than Ulka Sasaki. I don’t think he saw Manel’s moves. He was concentrating on his own moves. I think he heard the voices from the corners. I think it was the worst case scenario for him.
Plans for new years?
I ordered 3 whiskeys while I was cutting weight.
You told the boys to the juvenile prison to keep your dreams going. You didn’t say anything after the fight.
I wanted to show myself fighting in the ring. Rather than words, I wanted to show my style.
Ham Seo Hee
I’m very happy that I’ve won the RIZIN championship. It hasn’t sunk in. I’d like to be recognized as worthy of being the champion.
We fought twice. Right now she is very strong.
I would like to keep my title for awhile. That is my biggest goal for a while.
You felt a little bit surprised when you heard the decision.
I was surprised to win 2-1. I think I need to look back at the match.
Were you surprised she came with strikes?
That was in my mind. It wasn’t as much as I had thought.
What was the key to your victory?
That I never gave up until the end. That’s it.
Ayaka said she needs to fight a few more matches before a rematch with you. Do you think you will fight her in RIZIN?
I’d like to thank her and if she says she wants to fight me again I’d like to realize it. She fought with me 3 times. There are fighters I have not fought. I’m not gonna say who, but I would like to fight those fighters that I haven’t faced in the past.
She also mentioned she’d like to work her way up for next year, and have a rematch next NYE. What do you think of that?
Yes, in order to do so I’d like to work harder.
This was your 3rd fight against her. You are familiar with her style. Was there anything different that she had in her game plan?
I trained hard. I don’t think that I’ve been able to show that in my performance 100% yet. Yes this was my third time fighting with Hamasaki. In the 1st round it was way back. I can’t recall really how she fought. The 2nd match was also years ago. I knew she’s an excellent fighter. She had very sharp offensive moves.
You had been fighting since way back in Japan. You fought in the USA, Korea. You’d like to fight with fighters who you haven’t fought before. New fighters are coming up. What do you think of the upcoming stars in your division?
I think fighters who have the guts to keep up the hard work should come up.
You’ve won ROAD FC, RIZIN championships. Being the champion in two organizations, will your schedule be more active? Any plans on which organization you will put more emphasis on? After a surgery I will take a rest. I’d like to be active defending that tile also.
You’re a champion in two organizations. Both organizations have relationships with Bellator. How do you think that will work out?
If I get a good offer and opportunity in discussing with both organizations, I would like to challenge Bellator also.
I lost the belt. I’ll start from 0 again next year.
I wanted to fight striking first. She got me into the ground game. That wasn’t what I was expecting. It affected the result.
In 2020 whoever comes against me I’ll be able to fight back.
You were striking well against her. Did you feel you could strike?
I felt I could beat her with my punches but it didn’t go as planned in the 2nd round.
Once you exchanged punches, you came with the ground. Did you think that was something beyond your expectations?
It wasn’t anything out of my imagination or plans. But one mistake and she caught me.
There’s going to be talks about a rematch. Do you expect that or would you like to gradually work up to that match?
We’re 2-1. I lost to her today. I think I need to gradually work my way up again. If I can have the chance again that would be a great opportunity.
In the 1st round Ham took some punches. In the 2nd round you got caught in the triangle. You caught her late in the round, throwing some hard punches.
In the 2nd round I got more elbows from under. That’s what made me lose.
It wasn’t really something that was dangerous. I was just caught in her legs for so long.
You want to work your way up. It seems like with your experience you could rematch immediately if you want.
There are a lot of good fighters in this division. I feel I should work my way up.
Next year on NYE you want to fight her?
Yes, I think that would be a great scenario.
I was very happy to get the 1st round knockout. It was a fight in my proper weight class. I felt really good going into the match. Happy to get the result.
He has a heavy punch. He’s got some good boxing.
I’m relieved. I don’t know what I can say about my future in this moment.
It was one of your strongest matches of the year?
Yeah, I was told that Ebata was really strong and that I might lose. I wanted to show a dominant win. I went into the match relaxed. I wanted to show my power as a demonic type of strike. I’ve changed my ways of training so that I could go into the match relaxed.
There were some time in a previous match...
No that wasn’t an issue. I really wanted to go into the match today earlier in the hours. My warmups were good. 56kg is a good weight.
Would you like to continue in this class?
Yes, I do. But maybe if I start thinking because of that right away I need to move my weight class, that may be too early.
You mentioned you wanted to do things bigger than the Olympics. Any plans?
How I’ll do it, I don’t know. The only thing I can do is keep on winning and having people think no one can beat me.
It looked like you had the speed and sharpness. did you feel that?
Yes, I felt that. also before the match as I was warming up, I felt really good.
2020 would you like to fight in 56kg?
Yes, I do. Maybe it was the best match and performance I had all year. It was because Ebata was there as my opponent. He’s one of the strongest fighters in Japan. The fact that I was able to knock him out in the first round was great.
Were you able to resurrect yourself from last year end?
The opponent was Mayweather, but I was able to do so.
You said about having a tournament next year and facing Ebata in the tournament.
I wasn’t able to speak with him after the match. I’m just waiting for his answer.
The kick you showed after the 2nd down.
I call it the axel kick like in figure skating. Yes, I was looking for it. I wanted to knock him out with that, I got a pretty clean hit so I’m satisfied.
Because of Ebata, did you change your sparring partners?
No, I didn’t do anything different. Maybe just changed some of my image going into the match. I had some tensions going into the match, I was trying to be relaxed as much as possible this time. It went
well. Maybe the weight going into the match changed the way I adjusted. The conditioning I think went very well in the final week.
Did you have extra motivation in this fight?
Yes I really had some high emotions going into the match. I only felt that I could win. It was a strange confidence. That was my feeling.
Many people said he had power. But you had an amazing performance. Did you expect a tough fight or a decision?
Of course I had all different plans thought out. It was a part of my consideration. The first contact I had, I felt I could win. It’s strange but before the match I was so excited my nose started to bleed. Maybe I had to try to stop the fight before my nose started bleeding. They might think it was bleeding because of his punches.
Maybe you were the first person to be on RIZIN and also another program at the same time.
I don’t know about that. I didn’t know that in the TV world you cannot be on two different programs at the same time. The fact that it actually happened, I was very happy. I don’t really know how to answer the media.
I went into the match thinking I’d win. It’s just totally disappointing.
His reactions to my punches were very good. That was a little surprising. Maybe my moves weren’t as good as they should've been. I felt a little bit heavy. But he was strong.
I found my weaknesses. I know what I need to work on. I’ll watch my fight on video and come back stronger. I’ll have to look back at the video to get into details. I felt a little bit tense. He had more power than I thought. I needed to take him down or knock him out as soon as possible. But I became tense. His reactions were much better than I thought. His strikes were stronger.
You might’ve taken him lightly?
I didn’t think so but maybe the results are the results.
Do you think of having a rematch?
Of course I can’t stay down losing. I’d like to have a rematch and get that belt back.
I feel good. This is deja vu. I just wanna enjoy.
I just wanna feel Kai in the weigh-in. I like to see the eyes of my opponent. If they are confident. If everybody sees the video. Kai is so scared. He showed it. He cannot stay in one position. He tries to move his body, didn’t say anything. He tried, but his words cannot come out. He knew that this night will not be for him.
My plan is now I wanna be the most dominant fighter in RIZIN, defend my belt every time, make business here in Japan, like be a movie star.
You finished the fight in the 2nd round.
Like I said before, I say that I will finish in the 2nd round. My 1st round is just for controlling the fight. I hear my corner what they say and I just wait for the second round. If they guys pay attention when we finish the first round. I finish earlier than the other fighters. I feel that now I’m good, I'm hot and he cannot go for 3 rounds with me.
You switched stances, why?
I like to fight southpaw. I feel that Kai stood very well. I cannot make my plan as a southpaw very good. E caught me with 2 hands in my face, I feel you have a good plan. I changed for my side, I feel that he felt a little bit comfortable. I keep this plan. Make some fake takedowns, for him to think I want to wrestle with him, because I have better jiu jitsu with him and finish with KO.
Will you fight Ogikubo next?
Everyone saw the fight between him and Shintaro? It was a street fight, an ugly fight. They don't have any cardio. If they want a real fight, they need to train a lot, 3, 4, 5 times a day. They need to wake up early and go to sleep later. They can't follow me in the 1st round. Maybe. 2nd round never, if we go to 3rd round, it's like a miracle of God. I think that they need to be careful for what they wish. Train for this. What kind of message can you send to everyone who didn’t believe in you?
I don’t have a loss, I learn. I have victories and learn. If I didn't learn, I wouldn’t be here today. Every fight that didn’t go my way, it was a good lesson. It’s curious, because my first fight with Kai, this is God’s plan. Before I didn't accept, but now I accept. Maybe if I finished Kai, I wouldn’t be here. The message I have for everyone is to believe in yourself. I always said in school I would be a millionaire, I would be a champion. Nobody believed me. Go slow, now I’m here and everybody looks at me. It’s a good feeling. Who would you want to fight, where and when?
I don’t have anyone that I want to fight. I know that everybody wants to fight me. I just feel that everybody wants me. They will dream with me. They will think about me in training. I will stay in everyone's head. That's what I want. Ogikubo is just the next opponent, for me it's an easy fight.
Today you wore wrestling shoes. Why?
I injured my foot in training. So many injuries, I think I wouldn’t fight. When I train with the shoes I feel better, more comfortable.
Tell us who was the kid you raised at the end?
He’s the son of my coach Alex. My friend. He’s the kid that teaches me to say “Nandayo!”
Message to family?
My family already know, I brought the belt. I was so crazy as a kid. I thought of many impossible things for someone so young to think about. Now I show my family that everything that I said before happened. They are proud of me, I know that.
At the countdown, you said something to Ayaka Hamasaki?
I just say nothing, she lost. I know that feeling, if you lose something, I try to make her feel better. I know this sport is not grateful.
December 4, 2019
≫ BELLATOR JAPAN post lims and RIZIN.20 fight annoucement