The UFC hasn’t gotten around to establishing a flyweight division, so we here at ProMMAnow.com will continue our effort to educate the fans about the great talent in the 125 class.
We’ve been lucky enough to speak with Ian McCall, Jussier da Silva, John Dodson, Darrell Montauge, Alexis Vila, and Ulysses Gomez. Now you can add Mamoru Yamaguchi (25-5-3) to that list, the man ranked #2 in the world by Sherdog.com.
Recently, Yamaguchi joined a growing Tachi Palace Fights flyweight class that includes everyone on the above list except for Vila. The folks at TPF also haven’t wasted any time giving Yamaguchi a tough match, setting him up against Dodson on May 6 in Lemoore, Calif.
The former Shooto champion brings an exciting style (and haircut) and a ton of experience into the cage, and he spoke with ProMMAnow.com about going up against former 125 kingpin Shinichi “BJ” Kojima, some of his other memorable fights, how he matches up against Dodson, and why some Japanese stars have struggled stateside.
(Author’s note: The questions for this interview were submitted before the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Japan. However, we have confirmed that Mamoru and his family are okay. You can visit the Red Cross website to find out how to donate to help in the relief effort.)
ProMMAnow.com: Mamoru, first off, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. How did you become involved in mixed martial arts and how has the sport and your own training changed over the years from your point of view?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: The reason why I started this sport was quite simple. I just wanted to be a professional fighter. Not so much reasoning behind it. The MMA industry in America has grown so much. I have been wanting to fight in the States since last year and am looking forward to face many fighters in the cage. I have been working on using my elbows and focusing on how to fight inside the cage.
ProMMAnow.com: I have to say, your haircut is pretty cool and quite an attention-getter. How did you end up getting an afro?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: I wanted the fans to recognize me besides my fighting skills, and this hairstyle is what I ended up with. Now, many fans recognize my afro … and me.
ProMMAnow.com: You’ve had three fights with Shinichi Kojima, the guy many considered the best at your weight class for a long time. What made him such a tough opponent?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: After fighting him three times, I feel that he is physically very strong; he knows how to finish, and his ability [too look for those opportunities] and execute is amazing.
ProMMAnow.com: You’ve fought in the US a couple of times before. Is it different at all for you fighting overseas?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: All the medical exams, athletic commission checks, paperwork, were all a new experiences for me. Things are done differently in Japan. After a long flight and with the jetlag, getting my conditioning ready for the fight in a few days is something I am very sensitive about.
ProMMAnow.com: Some fighters that have been successful in Japan have lost after coming to the U.S. Jussier da Silva just lost to Ian McCall, and DREAM champion Hiroyuki Takaya went 0-2 in the WEC. Are there any adjustments you think you need to make against the competition here?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: The biggest difference is that in Japan, most of the competition is held in a ring with no elbows. Some others may be the strategy to fight in the cage, how to use elbows, and how the judges score points. I think there are still many things to go over and study before stepping in the cage again.
ProMMAnow.com: You’ve got a very interesting fight coming up with Tachi Palace Fights against John Dodson. What do you think of your opponent and where do you think you’ll have the advantage?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: I don`t have much information about him and I haven’t seen all of his fights, but what I can say about him from the fight I saw is that he is a very talented, well-rounded fighter. I have a feeling that this fight will be an extremely exciting fight.
ProMMAnow.com: With yourself, Dodson, da Silva, and some others, Tachi Palace Fights is putting together a really good flyweight division. Is that why you chose to sign with them? You’ve had a lot of success in Japan, so how important is it to you to perform well in this country?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: Right now, America`s MMA is the best in the world. And fighting in America and to see what I can accomplish there will be my last challange for my professional fighting carreer.
ProMMAnow.com: You’ve fought some great competitors in your career, like Kojima, Urushitani, Shimizu, and others. What’s been your most memorable fight and why?
Mamoru Yamaguchi: Nov. 19 against Fumihiro Kitahara. It was only a few months ago, but coming back to Shooto after a year and finishing it with a head kick KO was a very memorable fight for me.
ProMMAnow.com: Feel free to list anyone you would like thank in the article.
Mamoru Yamaguchi: Shooto Lightweight Pacific region Champion Taiki Tsuchiya. He is my training partner and will be my corner when I fight in America. He has got a lot of talent and in the close future, he might become famous, so please remember him.