Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sneak Peek into the Alliance Square with Katsunori Kikuno

Here is the continuation of my annual "Gym Sneak Peek" series. This time, the personal trainer is Katsunori Kikuno, an Okinawan Kenpo Karate fighter who currently competes for the UFC.

Of course, some of his fans might ask, "Isn't he a Kyokushin Karate fighter?" Kikuno tries to maximize his striking damage like the "Ichigeki" philosophy does now, which involves new karate, but Okinawa is where karate evolved and he learned from the oldest karate style.

Yamashiro teaching his karate with Kikuno

Kikuno was taught new tsuki (strikes) by Yoshitomo Yamashiro, who is an Okinawan Kenpo Karate master. Kikuno's KO victories against Luiz Andrade I and Takafumi Ito were both created by his new tsuki.

Kikuno taught my customer in a very friendly manner and he explained the details of his strikes. He demonstrated what he has done recently, but also taught his trademark crescent kick as well.

If you're a traditional martial arts fan, nothing is more fun than learning from Kikuno, who tries to adapt ancient skills to modern combat sports. He has not shown his tsuki KOs in the UFC yet, but I am one who enjoys something different in MMA and I'm waiting for that moment.

Learning from Kikuno costs 10,000 yen per hour. He requires a translator for teaching since explaining karate techniques in English can be quite difficult.

Big thanks to Katsunori Kikuno and my anonymous customer. Also big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mitsuyo Maeda's biography tell us old world and old fight world relate to early MMA

If Mitsuyo Maeda had not visited Brazil, MMA may not exist. If it did, it would be very different.

"A Lion's Dream (Conde Koma)" is the biography of Maeda. Written by Norio Kouyama, this book was honored with the Shogakukan Non-Fiction Award. Kouyama is not a martial arts specialist, so in this review of the book I evaluate how much merit it has as a biography.

Jigoro Kano was ambitious about education. He had dedicated himself to developing judo in Japan, but at the same time he was known as an educator. During this time, Japan was not valued as an equal by the western world, and martial arts were regarded lightly because of western culture and its guns. Martial arts were treated as strange samurai tactics that were not useful (against guns) during the Meiji period in Japan.

Kano believed that education could change the perspective about martial arts and of Japan itself. Therefore, he believed that he needed to expand traditional martial arts by introducing them to the western world. He dispatched many of his students around the world. Tsunejiro Tomita was set to be dispatched, but he was already more than 40 years old and Kano felt that he needed to recruit more of the younger active martial artists for this task. Luckily for Maeda, his other mentors were sent to Butokukai and he was able to travel abroad.

Butokukai Head Quarter

Before two judokas began the trip, one was recognized in America. That man was Yoshitsugu Yamashita, who impressed Theodore Roosevelt with his judo. Roosevelt wanted to bring a judo class to Annapolis, but Annapolis did not like that idea. After further discussion, Yamashita was permitted to compete at Annapolis. He fought a wrestler, Lieutenant Joseph Grant, who was roughly 10 years younger than Yamashita. Grant stood 2.0 meters tall and weighed 160kgs. Yamashita was 1.6 meters tall and weighed only 68kgs.

Yamashita had already spent one year in the United States and he knew how wrestlers fought. He countered Grant's forward movement with a throw and immediately went for a rear-naked choke. Grant stood up to try to flip Yamashita, but Yamashita secured an armbar when Grant used his left arm to stand. Grant gave up the fight and that made Yamashita the new judo coach at Annapolis.

Tomita and Maeda arrived in New York and were invited to West Point due to Yamashita's success at Annapolis. Maeda fought a school wrestling champion who took top position early in the match. The audience believed that that was the definition of victory, but Maeda rose to his feet and threw the wrestler before submitting him with an armbar. The audience still believed that the wrestler had won by pinfall.

Even at his advanced age, the audience believed that Tomita was better than Maeda since he was Maeda's mentor. As an athlete, Tomita was past his prime, but West Point arranged for him to compete against an even better fighter than Maeda had faced.

Tomita lost that fight and that made his and Maeda's evaluations lower. This is why Maeda went on to challenge many other martial arts fighters for money and recognition. He made trips to many countries to challenge other martial artists, and he understood judo's merits and faults against various disciplines.

During his breakdown of wrestling, Maeda noted that he would only accept fights against clothed opponents. He felt that he would still defeat unclothed wrestlers who were the same size as him, but he could lose to heavier opponents simply due to a power disadvantage. He recommended the Tsurikomigoshi technique against wrestlers because catching an arm would benefit the judoka and also defend against an opponent's attacks if a throw failed.

Maeda broke down tactics for competing against a boxer as well. He tried to challenge Jack Johnson, but Johnson refused to take part in a cross martial arts battle. The author of "Conde Koma" points out that this was similar to how proud Helio Gracie was when Joe Louis refused his challenge.

Maeda's foes were not billed as the strongest martial artists. Each one would simply be presented to him as a boxing champion or a wrestling champion. Maeda was confident that he could beat all of them, but there was a level of respect from both sides and his opponents did not proclaim to be "masters" at boxing or wrestling.

Maeda gained fame among Japanese immigrants in the United States due to the martial arts contests that he won. At the time, a movement had begun in America against Japanese immigrants. Maeda was conscious of the respect from immigrants and also of the social circumstances. He used the ring name "Yamato Maeda" to encourage people and himself.

During his trips all over world, Maeda spent time in some countries where Japanese people had comfortable lives. Brazil was undeveloped compared to America, but Maeda felt that there were still opportunities for Japanese immigrants to thrive.

I have omitted Maeda's time in Japan and in Brazil from this review because that should be read if and when it is presented in book form. "Conde Koma" is more about the social situations that Maeda faced and it includes almost nothing about his relationship with the Gracies or his education. Still, it is interesting because it explains how he encountered cross martial arts fights and how his journey resembled that of the early Gracies. It also educates newer MMA fans who are not familiar with the lineage of martial arts.

Yoshizo Machida, who manages Maeda's grave, shows a copy of "Conde Koma."

My other artcile about Judo's advance to the world

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Roxanne Modafferi interview

Some MMA fighters experience a career turnaround following a losing streak, and Roxanne Modafferi's resurgence was one of the most impressive to date. She once had a six-fight losing streak, and as I watched her fight for Valkyrie and Jewels, I worried along with other people about the coaching and training that she was receiving. Following a move to the United States, Modafferi drastically changed her MMA career after a stint on TUF 18 that included a submission win over Valerie Letourneau, who will challenge Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 193. Since signing with Invicta FC, Modafferi has shown rapid improvement in the striking department.

While asking her questions, I thought about the language barrier that she endured when learning MMA techniques in Japan. When explaining the nuances of a technique, coaches often use slang or abbreviations, which can be difficult to understand for people from other countries (I feel this often, too).

I believe that Modafferi's knowledge of Japanese is better than 95% of foreign Japanese learners, but she still admits to a language barrier and that says a lot about the difficulties of learning MMA techniques in a second language.

This is an interview with an MMA fighter who has trained in two countries and knows the difficulties of cultural differences. She has persevered through these struggles on the path to the happiest day in her career.

When you began your career in Japan, there were no stable MMA organizations that could provide consistent fights for women outside of Japan. Many western female MMA fighters could not find enough fights in the early era and either retired or stayed in the sport for many years and fought way past their prime. You have had a long career and, after a tough losing streak, you seem to have now entered the prime of your career. How do you feel about the course of your career and how did you make it through the difficult situations?

I feel that my career has been exciting and full of adventures.  I trained very hard every night while working during the day. In the beginning, it was enough. Then MMA continued to evolve as a sport and my working full-time plus training became too much. I also had a hard time learning how to strike.  I love grappling but struggled for a long time to do kickboxing effectively. I started on a losing streak. That changed once I decided to move back to America to fight full time, and I joined the gym Syndicate MMA in Vegas. I can't say that I regret moving back sooner because I loved my life in Japan. I'm still fighting and climbing my way to the top!

While you were still in Japan, which fighter impressed you the most? Was it someone you fought or just someone who taught you something important?

When I was living in Japan, I looked up to K-Taro Nakamura because he could take everybody's back and choke them out. I eventually bought his book on RNC. He used to teach at Keishukai every Saturday. I learned the single leg back control from him.

During your TUF 18 elimination fight against Valerie Letourneau, you took her back and finished her with a rear-naked choke. I got the impression that what you learned at Wajyutsu Keishukai worked during the turning point in your career (taking the back and finishing with a rear-naked choke is a common move at that gym). Is that a technique that you learned from Wajyutsu Keishukai? If not, who taught you that move?

It's true that I loved doing rear naked choke at Keishukai. However, I learned the move years ago way before moving to Japan so I forget who actually originally taught me.

You have shown rapid improvement in your striking since joining Syndicate MMA. You control distance, use a variety of combinations and have great elbow attacks now. How has John Wood taught you these things and what convinced you to accept his teachings?

I'm an "audio" learner rather than visual, so that means I need someone to explain details of techniques to me, not just show me, or I can't understand. In Japanese, that was really difficult. Even though I did private mitt sessions with a trainer, I don't feel I advanced a lot. Syndicate owner and Coach John Wood has the ability to really explain striking to me and "train me" through repetition so I can understand. Knowing my learning style, I tried out his gym for a week, decided that he was the guy I could entrust with my new hope for my career. I said to him, not "I'd like to join your gym," but rather, "Will you be my coach?" Starting the next week, I've done extra mitt sessions every week for the last two years in addition to the well-run MMA classes. That's how I was able to improve so much.

UFC does not currently have a 125-pound division. They only have 135 and 115. How do you feel about your division's absence in the UFC? Do you feel that Zuffa should add a 125 division?

I'm sad my weight class is not in the UFC. I hope it is soon.

Invicta FC does have a 125-pound division and DEEP Jewels has also recently created that weight class as well. Of course, you want to challenge Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak, but how would you evaluate the DEEP Jewels 125-pound division? Did you watch champion Ji Yeon Kim's fight? Please provide your impression of her if so.

I haven't been able to easily watch Deep Jewels since I moved back to the U.S.  I haven't seen Ji Yeon Kim. I remember last year seeing a few fights and being disappointed in some technique. That was due to my new perspective - I recognized a bunch of techniques the fighters didn't do that I had just learned at Syndicate. I found myself thinking, "if only they could train with me at Syndicate!" I think JMMA has been surpassed in certain ways.

You are known for your hobbies: Anime, Manga, gaming, movies, music and so on. What are some of the current "hot things" in your hobbies?

I've been trying to catch up on old anime that I've fallen behind in, like One Piece and Naruto and DBZ Kai. I've gotten into new ones like Attack on Titan. I'm SO excited that I can see the live-action movie during my Japan visit! I also try to study Japanese in my free time. Thanks to Skyping with my friend Goto-san and him correcting my Japanese blogs, I haven't lost my language skills.

Your nickname is Happy Warrior. What makes you the happiest? Fighting itself, conversations with coaches and training partners, interacting with fans, everyday life or something else?

I try and look at everything in a positive light, and I try and find the good things about every situation. I appreciate everything. Talking to people makes me happy, training and challenging myself makes me happy, seeing other people smile makes me happy!

Please share a message for your fans about your fighting career and future.

You may not realize it, but as my fans, you play a big part in my motivation and happiness. When you cheer for me, or send me an email or Tweet or Facebook message of encouragement, it inspires me to try harder if I'm feeling down or hurt or tired.  I feel like my life has some more meaning than simply me fighting for fun. It makes me think that there's no way I can let the Happy Warrior retire any time soon! I still have so much more positivity to spread!  I want to make friends with EVERYONE, and show that fighting can be an honorable athletic contest, not an angry brawl where someone enjoys inflicting pain on another.

Roxanne Modafferi

Roxanne Modafferi Official Twitter

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Breakdown of Hisaki Kato vs Joe Schilling at Bellator 139

Hisaki Kato was previously fighting for HEAT, which is a Japanese promotion based in Nagoya that is recognized as the top promotion in the region. Recently, the talent level in HEAT has increased. HEAT sent Kiichi Kunimoto to the UFC and Kunimoto built up a winning streak in the UFC that people never expected. I named Kato in this year’s list of Japanese MMA fighters to watch, and after that Bellator picked him up. That was a pleasant surprise because HEAT isn’t well-recognized in the Western world. I think that the vicious outcome of Kato vs. Yuki Niimura convinced Bellator to sign him.

Hisaki Kato vs. Yuki Niimura

I felt a bit nervous about Kato’s American debut, thinking about how my list can affect him being signed (I was the first person to give Kato attention in English). I mostly cover Japanese MMA in Tokyo, and therefore had not seen Kato compete outside of three local fight videos from Nagoya.

Kato is a Daidojuku champion. Daidojuku is a martial art separated from Kyokushin Karate that was formed when Takashi Azuma added grappling elements to karate. Daidojuku uses “Super Safe,” which protects the head and face from damage. Therefore, Daidojuku fighters train at close range with barrages of strong strikes to stop opponents.

Super Safe

Kato said that he would not fight at Schilling’s length. Indeed, he did not.

In round one, Kato did not fight in Schilling’s punching range. He avoided trading punches against the kickboxing champion and threw kicks while watching Schilling’s movement. One of Schilling’s most dangerous strikes is his counterpunch, and Kato’s reach is shorter. So Kato moved forward and used barrages of punches (I think that his Daidojuku background benefited him here) and then immediately worked for takedowns. That means that he never gave Schilling any time to throw a counter.

Kato’s gym is known for BJJ. Alive produced Hatsu Hioki. Kato’s BJJ isn't on Hioki’s level, but he improved his position against Schilling  who has less ground experience and ground-and-pounded him.

When Schilling succeeded at standing up from mount, Kato threw a flurry of punches at close range until the bell rang. This means that he still never allowed Schilling to strike from his preferred punching length.

The second round began and Schilling slowed down because of damage that he had incurred. He chose to attack with kicks. Schilling may have thought that kicking length was okay for him since he is a kickboxing champion, but Kato had not taken any damage and his faster speed allowed him to score a savage Superman punch KO from a distance.

During the fight, Kato never allowed Schilling to fight at his preferred punching or kicking length. In close, Kato threw volume punches for a short time period and went for takedowns immediately after. At last, he landed the Superman punch from a long distance.

Finish scene

In conclusion, MMA fighters are not obligated to trade strikes like they are in boxing or kickboxing, but they can still can sculpt fights with strikes that lead to savage KO wins like Kato did. Of course, Daidojuku and Kudo benefit Kato, and particularly when he is throwing close-range volume punches. I'm looking forward to seeing what he and his Daidojuku background can do in his next fight.

Kudo (Daidojuku) official website

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Fighters' trash talk before fights and ambitious comments afterwards are often easy subjects for media when creating articles. I don't think that's wrong, and I don't want MMA to become a sport where the loser gets more attention.

Most fighters have losses on their records and there is nothing wrong with fighters having no words when they lose. They don't plan to lose, but I want to bring some attention to fighters who talk about and analyze their losses.

Losing gives a sense of reflection to fighters and I feel that some fighters reflect with dignity rather than with ambition.

I have heard losers talk about how they will erase their faults and/or evolve their strongpoints. These fighters' trial-and-error approach is a lot like MMA itself and its evolution, but this does not get the attention that it deserves.

MMA is about violence, but I think that people underrate intelligence and the importance of reflection in MMA. I must point out that there are fighters who have a sense of reflection when winning, and not just after defeats.

In Japan, fans and media refer to some fighters as philosophers. That does not mean that the fighter is similar to a true philosopher, but it does mean that opponents must watch out for his or her ability to reflect and adapt.

Some fighters like Fedor Emelianenko and Lyoto Machida have fanatic supporters, but that does not mean that fans like them because they are mysterious. Fans see a sense of intelligence and reflection with dignity.

When I form interview questions, there is always one common theme despite the fact that the questions are different. I ask fighters whether their training and game plans for fights actually work out in the fights themselves.

With that question, I think that fighters generally show personality when answering, and that provides an interesting insight into their intelligence and reflection.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Breakdown of Donald Cerrone vs Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178

What reminds you the most about Muay Thai use in MMA? I think the most remembered moment is when Anderson Silva broke Rich Franklin's nose at UFC 64. Back then, there were fighters who still didn't know about the Thai clinch.

Today, no elite fighters are unaware of the Thai clinch, but Muay Thai is not only about clinching. Let's think about a fighter's style and how it incorporates Muay Thai.

At UFC 178, Donald Cerrone faced Eddie Alvarez in the co-main event. Alvarez had a shorter reach and his striking style relied heavily on boxing. Therefore, he needed to step in and out when striking.

Alvarez used that step-in movement well early on and he landed a high volume of punches in the clinch. He took the first round as a result, but don't forget that Cerrone had already started to punish Alvarez's body with knees.

Since Alvarez had to step forward when punching because of his reach disadvantage, Cerrone's knees worked well as counters.

In the second round, Cerrone's counterattacks with knees dealt more damage to Alvarez's body, and this damage left Alvarez unable to fight in the clinch.

When clinches did happen, Cerrone's knees stopped Alvarez from dirty boxing. When fighting from a distance, Cerrone's low kicks hurt Alvarez's leg and that slowed him down.

This made it easier for Cerrone to continuously attack Alvarez's leg. I also point out that Alvarez's step-in punches became ineffective with his leg damaged.

This fight was largely about which fighting length was better for each fighter. The competition mostly took place at a short length, and Cerrone held an advantage due to body and leg damage that allowed him to win.

          Cerrone talk about fight.

Muay Thai (and kickboxing) is about creating attacks from several different lengths and finding the most preferred and successful length in order to win a fight.

Cerrone's skill at doing this showed in his fight with Alvarez. He succeeded with Muay Thai without relying entirely on the Thai clinch, but rather by relying upon other important and lesser-known parts of Muay Thai.

We should think more about how fighters try to get better at using length and angles against each other.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Japanese MMA Fighters to Watch Out 2015

Here is the 2015 edition of Fighters to Watch For. Michinori Tanaka and Uruka Sasaki landed themselves a spot in a major organization (UFC) last year. There is, of course, a few new faces this time around and we have more fighters with clean records. How I evaluate is based upon who won against whom, but if a specific performance convinced me, I’ve done a more risky pick. I hope that, with this list, hardcore MMA fans will take note of who are JMMA's up-and-comers.

Motoya's 2014 was an active one and perfect for what he wanted. He avenged a loss against Tatsumitsu Wada and won his first international fight against former RFA champ Matt Manzanares. He used a variety of kicks to make his movements harder to read and his front kicks stopped Manzanares's pressure. Motoya is the most highly-touted rookie who remains in local Japanese promotions and he will soon move on to fight in a major organization.

Wada lost his DEEP flyweight strap against Motoya this past year, but his year-end performance against Ryuichi Miki defined him as a top-three Japanese flyweight. Wada is known for his boxing skills and often continuously jabs his opponents. Not only that, he avoided Miki's strike-takedown combinations and finished Miki with a rear-naked choke.

Ogikubo's year was all about winning the VTJ flyweight tournament. He had a competitive fight against Takeshi Kasugai, but after that he choked out Kana Hyatt and showed positional grappling superiority against Czar Sklavos. Ogikubo asked for a fight against Yuki Motoya, but his injury prevented the fight.

Ando signed with One FC and his wins against Rafael Nunes and Zorobabel Moreira both ended with finishes but in different ways. He choked Nunes and tapped him out, then fought a striking battle against the huge-framed Moreira. Ando forced Zoro to fight passively after pressuring him and, with Zoro’s mind weakened, Ando finished him with a body shot.

Nakahara's 2014 did not go well because he did not have an opportunity to fight. He was supposed to face Honggang Yao, but the fight was scrapped because Yao missed weight. When I think about Nakahara’s record and improvement curve, he remains here on this list.

Hisaki Kato vs Yuki Niimura

Kato is not yet well-known, but he is the current HEAT middleweight champion and also a Daidojuku champion. HEAT is a Nagoya-based organization, so I haven't watched his fights yet, but from his record and quick finishing times he should be seen as at least a top-three Japanese middleweight. Another reason why I am interested in him is his Daidojuku skill. The first Japanese fighter in the UFC was Minoki Ichihara and he had no solution against Royce Gracie's grappling, but after all of these years of MMA evolution, perhaps Daidojuku can contribute to major MMA's style diversity? That's not a pure fighter evaluation, but I am interested in him for such a reason, too.

Ayaka's 2014 was about testing herself in a new division. She dominated former Jewels featherweight champ Naho Sugiyama in striking and on the ground, then fought and defeated Mei Yamaguchi. We can expect that she will soon fight in the U.S. since she did not participate in the DEEP Jewels featherweight GP, which is being held in her new division.

Mizuki's 2014 did not go how she had wanted. She missed weight in the finals of the DEEP Jewels lightweight GP and lost by DQ even though she submitted Emi Tomimatsu. She avenged her “loss” against Tomimatsu in her next fight to become Deep Jewels featherweight champion. Mizuki next fought Karolina Kowalkiewicz at Invicta FC 9, but her precision striking was not favored against Karolina's volume of strikes. She will begin 2015 against Alexa Grasso at Invicta FC 11. Mizuki is still only 20 years old, but she needs to develop more physical strength to give her precision striking more value.

Kento Kanbe vs Suguru Hayakawa fight from 10:10

Kanbe may not be expected to be on this list because he is so early in his career at 18 years old, but his dominance over opponents with his grappling made me convinced that he needed to be included here. Kanbe trains at Alliance Square and is a grappling-based prospect at the moment. His strong point is obviously his ground game, but we know that current fighters in major promotions can't rely too much upon grappling. Alliance Square’s coach, Tsuyoshi Kosaka, knows how to build MMA talent, so I think that Kanbe will develop considerable striking skills but I don't know how far he can go. I think we will someday see him challenge for a Pancrase title.

Ryohei Kurosawa vs Tateo Iino

Ryohei “Ken Asuka”  Kurosawa

Kanbe is Pancrase's lightest weight prospect. I don't know if he will fight in the upper divisions in the future, but Shooto's lightest prospect is Ryohei Kurosawa. His nickname, “Ken Asuka,” is from Karate Manga. His style is karate, which he began training at age six, but what impressed me most was his sprawl against the takedowns of Ryuto Sawada, who is a top prospect.

Ando's career is too short yet, with only three fights so far, but he was a top-three wrestler in college. In his third bout, he beat Takahiro Ashida, who has 16 fights on his record and fought to a split decision against Miguel Torres. It shows Ando’s potential and what kind of athlete he is.

Ryuto Sawada vs Masayoshi Kato

Ryuto Sawada

Sawada had a breakout performance after his loss against Kurosawa. He outpaced and outwrestled Yuki Shojo for the entire fight and ground-and-pound KOed him. That was surprising for me since Ryuto is small for Shooto’s flyweight division. He displayed big KO power against Shojo, who only had one prior TKO loss in his career. Sawada is expected to face champion Yoshitaka Naito next year.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire interview

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is of course the Bellator MMA featherweight champion. He is known for his knockout power, but his last fight against Daniel Straus played out in an unexpected way. While Straus showed improvements in his striking and enjoyed a reach advantage, “Pitbull” displayed his superior skills on the ground and submitted Straus. I had expected the opposite from both fighters before the fight happened. Such a fight only happens when both fighters have drastically improved.

We asked “Pitbull” about his fight against Straus and about other topics including comparisons to UFC fighters and his personality outside of the cage.

-Your fight against Straus was not a fight that I had expected beforehand. I thought that you would try to strike at close distances while Straus would try to take you down.  Straus showed that his striking has improved, but did you expect that he would have improved that much?

I stood up with him, but I was hit, hurt. Took some eye pokes, low blows, head butt. It rendered a bit of my performance. But he was very good, I can't take his merit away. I thought I won rounds 1 and 2, he won the third and the beginning of the fourth was his, but I submitted him. I knew he would be very tough, although I didn't expect to be knocked down, but it happens in the fight. We can be surprised, but I was very well trained and was able to react to reverse the situation, which was what I did.

-Did you have a particular game plan for this fight? If so, how did it compare to the actual fight? If not, did you rely more upon what you train on a daily basis?

Yes, I have an strategy for all the fighters on the weightclass. I watch all fighters not only from Bellator, but the UFC, WSOF, I know everybody. I may not know everyone's names, but I know their styles and the strategy to face them. Every fighter that can offer me any form of danger I know the antidote. In a fight everything can happen, but I know how to act and with Straus it wasn't different. I studied him for months. I didn't bring Eric Albarracin (wrestling coach) to Natal just for show. Thank God I was able to bring the victory home. I was better than him on his best field and he was a worthy opponent at my biggest asset. It's been 4 years I wouldn't try to submit anyone, only get knock outs, and Straus was able to stand and strike with me the entire fight. There were a few different things I planned to do I ended up not doing, but I will strengthen those aspects of my game, practice them more and make automatic so I can show it in my next performances.

-You have shown considerable skill in grappling many times before, but because you often finish fights with huge knockouts, people have paid less attention to your grappling skills. You already showed your positional superiority against Straus in your first fight and also against Reis. This time, you submitted Straus, who won his Bellator title fight with grappling. Do you feel that your performance made a statement to the rest of the featherweight division?

I think the Featherweight division can't misjudge the kind of fighter I am. I'm a well rounded fighter. When I don't see a need to take my opponent down and use my jiu jitsu I don't do it. If I can take care of business standing I'll do it. On the day I face problems and get hurt like it happened with Straus, the third round I couldn't see anything. My strategy was based on closing in on him, my corner told me to do it but I had the opportunity to take him down as well. Eric told me that any time I wanted to take him down I would, so that's what I did. The division has to be worried, I'm the world champion and it's natural for me to be a complete fighter.

Patricio Pitbull Submits Daniel Straus

 -Did you see Georgi Karakhanyan's performance against Bubba Jenkins? If so, what was your impression? What can we expect from a rematch between you and Georgi?

I did. I thought it would be a tougher fight. He's a very tough opponent, very skilled on the stand up, has good transitions on the ground, his takedowns are ok. His ground game and takedowns were already good, but he improved on them a little bit. But I see myself as a much tougher fighter than him. I think I can take the fight wherever I want. If I want to stay standing I will do it, if I want to bring it to the ground I will do it. I don't see anyone in the weightclass able to beat me.

-You don't have an overly big frame for your weight class, but fighters like Frankie Edgar have gotten respect for fighting larger opponents. People rarely mention your frame disadvantage. How do you feel about it and how do you overcome it?

There are very few fighters than can hit me. I have a very good footwork, my boxing is at a high level. The guys that hit me were Straus, a southpaw who's very tall, but was unable to hit me the first time we fought, and Curran who was able to hit me both fights. But I was in their faces the entire time. If you see my first and second rounds with Straus the rounds were back and forth. I know I'm small for the weightclass, but I see guys fighting at Flyweight who are taller than me, at Bantamweight too, Lightweight too, so it's not like I can choose. I feel my advantage at Featherweight is that I'm a compact guy, maybe I'm stronger than the other guys. They beat me in width, but they can't beat me in speed or footwork and specially in strength. That's my differential, I can nullify the difference in height and width with it.

-Bellator champions are always compared to UFC fighters. Of course, we can only imagine you versus UFC fighters for now, but how do you compare yourself with Aldo, Mendes, Edgar and McGregor?

I didn't know much about McGregor. I haven't seen too many fights of him. I've watched him for a little bit more than one year, he's a guy that talks a lot and got a title shot. He beat some weak guys and was able to promote himself well. He has expressive wins against guys that aren't convincing, so I can't imagine how good he would be against a top guy. I would need to see him versus a Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, someone tougher in the weight class. But everyone in Brazil asks me how would a fight between me and Aldo be. I already said it would be a very tough fight, Aldo is a calm and composed fighter, such as I am, he defended his belt 7 times which creates an extra pressure. I made my first defense, was knocked down for the first time in my career, but I was able to overcome the situation. It's positive to me. I never lost faith, always kept my confidence high. Only God can tell who would win a fight between us if it was to happen some day. A lot of people compare me to Aldo, but I have my doubts if his kicks are stronger than mine. I see he's faster than me, but I think I'm stronger. It's a curious fight, I think both would go out very hurt and the one with the stronger spirit would prevail. I admire him as a fighter and a person, it's a fight that makes sense. And about the weight class in general, I know I can beat any man.

-Conor McGregor is bringing a lot of attention to your weight class. How do you feel about his actual fighting skill and media tactics?

He needs to be tested. After he's tested I'll say more about him. Let's watch him versus Aldo, which is a fight I don't think he'll be able to survive the first round. Only after this fight we'll be able to say something about him. He's shown he's got a good boxing, good distance, kicks on the right time and is slick, but he did all that with weak guys, so I can't say much.

-Scott Coker becoming Bellator president may make a difference, but I thought during the Rebney era that Bellator failed to showcase non-American fighters’ personalities and relate them to the audience. How do you feel about how you are promoted by Bellator now (Coker) and then (Rebney)? Also, please tell me about your personality away from fighting. Which other sports do you like and which hobbies (music, movies, etc.) do you enjoy?

I think it's normal for Bellator to give me more exposure now, I am the champion. The champion is the best of the weight class, so that's natural. I would bring a lot of attention because of my knock outs, 4 years knocking out a lot of people, so my performances would showcase me by themselves. Today I can have a bigger exposure, Bellator is in a good TV channel in Brazil, a good tv channel in the US, they can have good ratings and better fighters and starts. People that can bring, as Scott Coker said, the casual audience. That's what Bellator is doing and I'm very happy with it.

And my hobbies, it's tough to say because I like to fight a lot. On my free time I like to train jiu jitsu, I'm going to start training Karate as well to loosen my mind a bit. But I like speed, I like cars, I like to run. I love to watch action movies, si-fi movies. There has to be a bit of lies (laughs), special effects, super powers, like Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, among others.

-In Japan, Big Nog is major figure. In Brazil, he is known for supporting struggling Brazilian fighters. What has he meant to you? Has he been a teacher, supporter, idol, or a combination of all?

Rodrigo is a combination of all of it. Specially a friend. I've seen him support a lot of people. I've spent 3 and a half years as part of Team Nogueira and one of the people I saw him help was my brother who was going for a tough time without fights and not making money, Rodrigo would give him money monthly, that's something I will never forget. I see him as an older brother, an idol, several things. He doesn't need to prove anything to anyone, he inspired generations. Rodrigo Minotauro is synonymous with guts, overcoming adversities, champion. I only have good things to say about him.

-Please share a message for your fans about your fighting career and future.

I use to say I don't have fans, I have friends. The people that follow my work and know of my dedication and my effort I'm able to be friends with. Fans to me are the people that root for you when you win and throws stones at you when you lose. So I don't have fans, I have friends. People that support me when I win and support me even more in the tough times. I use to create friendship with those people, I try to answer everyone on my fan page, instagram and twitter. I do it myself. I try to have friends and not fans, the word fan means a lot. We don't know who's a real fan or who's a fake. That fan that just supports you when you're winning you have to worry about. Specially in Brazil. The people support a lot who's the champion, but when you're in a tough spot they forget or criticize you. But there are those people who are truthful and to me they're not fans, they're friends.

About my career, please support me as I keep trying to write my name on the sport's history. I'm here for any challenges, I will fight any man. I want people to talk about me as the best fighter to ever grace this sport.

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Big thanks to Matheus Aquino (Fort MMA) for coordinate and Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.