Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mizuki out with injury

Mizuki Inoue has been forced off of the Invicta 26 card with an injury to a ligament in her left elbow. She is expected to recover fully within three months. Given the opportunity to fight inside of Japan with a taped elbow, Mizuki refused, stating that she is only interested in fighting for Invicta FC and the UFC.  At Invicta 26, Mizuki was expected to return from over a year long absence that resulted from dual knee surgeries. With the news of her being forced off of next weeks card, some people seemed concerned that she had re-injured her knee. That is not the case as the surgeries were both successful and her knees are back at 100%.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Miyuu Yamamoto Interview

Below is our interview with Rizin's Miyuu Yamamoto. Miyuu is competing in Rizin's women's tournament and will face Irene Rivera on October 15th in the first round. We would like to thank Miyuu for taking the time to answer our questions.


1. You made your debut after a very successful wrestling career and after you were 40 years old. Can you talk about why you got into MMA? What was the decision process like?

Miyuu: I was training for the 2016 Olympics but I couldn't compete at the Olympic trials (somehow) even though I got my Canadian citizenship. It hurt me pretty bad but I didn't wanna stop training. Because I work hard everyday. So I decided to continue wrestling for the 2017 worlds. But my heart wasn't there and I couldn't focus on my training. At the same time Mr. Sakakibara was asking me to fight for Rizin. I guess that was the right timing for him to ask me lol I was looking for a new passion, like a new mountain to climb. It seems like a big decision to make but it wasn't for me lol. Just like a kid who found a new toy ðŸ˜

2. What is it like being in the Yamamoto family? Many outside of Japan may not realize that your father was an Olympic wrestler, your sister was a world champion wrestler, your son is very rlented wrestler and MMA athlete, and your brother is Kid Yamamoto?

Miyuu: Hmmmmm surrounded by people with strong personalities lol (I definitely am one of them lol) Training is great! My bro is our coach and I still can't believe and it amazes me that I train with my son! I never thought my life would be like this! I just can't thank god enough. This is the best part of my MMA life. I was living in Canada, my son was living in Hungary, my bro (KID) lives in Japan but now were are all living in the same place!

3. What is it like training for and fighting on the same events as your son, Erson?

Miyuu: Sorry, if I answer in the same way but it's amazing! Like I said, I never thought something like this would happen but oh my life! This makes me thing that everything has a reason, I couldnt make the Olympics because of this! The best thing was waiting for me ðŸ˜ŠðŸ™ðŸ½

4. In your last fight, you picked up your first win. Your wrestling looked great, but you also seemed to have real punching power. What was it like getting your first win and can you talk about the fight a bit?

Miyuu: I believed in myself, my team and everything I'd done for that fight. But still that was a crazy happy feeling lol, my corner was crazier lol. My son, BJJ coach and Muay Thai coach were my corner. If you watch my fight again you'd laugh because they were crazy lol. Anyways, yes I wanted to keep standing for the fight. Because I've worked on my boxing too. But the last round Cassie kept coming forward (she is such a fighter  ðŸ‘ðŸ½) so it was like a reaction to take the shot. A habit. But I was happy that I finally won a fight.

Miyuu when the fight was over
5. Your next opponent, Irene, has a record of 6-4 and is quite larger than you. Can you talk about your opponent and the fight and how you expect it to go?

Miyuu: Well I think almost everyone has a larger record because I'm a rookie ðŸ˜œ. So I'm just gonna drag them into "my fight" and show the world what I got. 

6. If all goes well, you may fight Rena again in the tournament. How would you fight a second fight with her differently? Are there any other fighters that stick out to you in the tournament?

Miyuu: Yeah, we will probably fight again in this tournament. It wouldn't be the same for sure. We both have progressed, like her grappling and wrestling have gotten better and my standing has gotten better. That's all I can say for now lol. Those girls are good fighters and I will be prepared for anyone.

7. Can you talk about your training? It looks like a lot of Krazy Bee has moved down to the new gym in Okinawa, what has that been like? What is your schedule like? 

Miyuu: Yes, we just opened up the new Krazy Bee gym its called Krazy Bee Itoman (That's where the gym is in Okinawa). It is not as big as Krazy Bee Tokyo and we just started, but all my coaches are great. Our head coach, Kid, is great ðŸ‘ðŸ½. He teaches us not only MMA training but also how to take care of our bodies. He studies a lot about nutrition and condition training and stuff. We have Muay Thai, BJJ, no-gi, wrestling and boxing. Just like any other fighter.

8. You competed on the highest stage of wrestling, what are the similarities and differences to MMA?

Miyuu: They are both the same in that we have to beat anyone standing in front of us lol. Differences are MMA has so many more painful possibilities to get hit with lol. And it's very different feeling when I walk into the MMA ring. I can't explain exactly but you really have to be ready for war. That's pretty crazy and exciting feeling, I can't get that feeling from wrestling. It's just different.

9. Can you talk about what you do in your free time, what stuff do you do outside of the gym?

Miyuu: Chasing my kids lol. They make me crazy in many ways (driving me crazy and crazy happy lol). Raising the kids is what I'm doing when I'm not trying lol. Go to the beach of being lazy at home. Watching the movies in my bed....just like a regular mom I think? 

10. Is there anything you would like to say or anyone you would like to thank?

Miyuu: I would like to thank so many people that support me and my family. My brother KID, I know its not easy to teach family members (I talk back to him sometimes...that's because I'm his sis but that's wrong because he is my coach) but he is still here for my son and me. He doesn't give up on us. I'm the luckiest fighter that I have an amazing coach like hi,

And my kids...Erson, Ernon and Mia. Sometimes I feel bad that their mom is always choosing a crazy lifestyle that they have to deal with. But they know I love to live on the edge and I can't live without them lol. They are my everything! They got my back ðŸ˜œ❤

And my dad, mom, other family members, coaches, teammates, friends and fans! I wouldn't be here without them! Huge thank you to all  ðŸ™ðŸ½❤

In case if you didn't know I will win the tournament (shhhhhh)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Andy Nguyen Interview

1. Can you talk about how you got involved in MMA?

Andy: I've always been a tomboy. I Saw a sold out MMA event at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and there were two female fighters at 115lbs and I wanted to do it. It was 7 years ago when MMA got legalized in South Carolina.

2. You train with the Karate Mafia MMA. What is it like training there and with Andrea Lee?

Andy: She's my best friend. She's so informative. So is our coach which is her husband, Donny Aaron. She's sweet and we laugh allot. I've been training there for 2-3 years.

3. How did you find out that you will be part of the Rizin Women's Grand Prix? What would it mean to you to win the $90,000 grand prize at the end of the year?

Andy: I knew about the tournament like 6 months ago. Winning the whole tournament is something I've never dreamed of. I saw Cro Cop win at age 40 or something New Years Eve & I was so impressed. I can buy my mommy a house so she doesn't have to work anymore.

4. This won't be your first fight for Rizin. Can you talk about your first experience fighting for Rizin? There is also a chance that you may face your old opponent Miyuu again, what are your thoughts on that?

Andy: Rizin was breathtaking. I cherished each moment. You can see me breathing deeply during the weigh ins. (Video) They were so professional and helpful. They know how to throw a New Years Even Fight Party. Miyuu is like wine. She gets better with age.

5. In your last fight you came out with a cowboy hat to American woman (at Rizin), any hints on what your next entrance will be like? You've been doing some promotional work for the Japanese fans. What has this been like? What are your thoughts on the Japanese fans?

Andy: Well it is a different venue. Hopefully its long enough for a strip tease lol. Yeah, I bought a VIP ticket (front row) & they will sit next to my sponsor. Just showing the Japanese fans they are appreciated. Japanese fans are very conservative and respectful. Not like a bunch of drunks from UFC lol.

6. Your first fight will be against Rena. Rena is one of Rizin's big stars. Can you talk about fighting her? What are your thoughts on her and how do you think the fight will play out?

Andy: She's a great undefeated fighter. She's young, beautiful & hungry. I'm old but I'm starving.

7. You are coming off of a tough loss, are you changing anything up before the tournament, if so what?

Andy: I had a bad elbow. I should have not taken the fight. I was on prednisone. I even asked the doctor to clear me. I was fighting 65-70% of my potential for 5 rounds. I don't regret it, I'm healthier now.

8. What are your goals in MMA?

Andy: To be the best I can be and retire with great experience and credentials so I can pass my knowledge to the future of WMMA.

9. What do you like to do in your free time when you are not training?

Andy: Travel, shop, and comedy shows. It doesn't have to be big names. I've had more fun with smaller names.

10. Is there anything you would like to say or anyone you would like to thank?

Andy: Thank you for welcoming back in to Japan! I love you guys and I cannot wait to put on a show!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alyssa Garcia Interview

Photo courtesy of MMAJUNKIE
Below is our interview with Alyssa "Tiny Tim" Garcia, who will be facing Maria Olivera on October 15th in the first round of the RIZIN Women's Grand Prix. Please enjoy and thank you to Alyssa for taking the time to answer our questions.


1. Can you talk about how you got involved with MMA? What was the process like?

Alyssa: I was wrestling in college, right out of high school, and I was at a CC so it's a men's team and the lowest weight class was 125. So I trained and competed a little with them but my shoulders were giving out, so my brother said "do jiu jitsu". I was hesitant at first because I am such a fan of wrestling and the grittiness of the sport. I started training and teaching kids wrestling at a local gym and three months into training I had my first amateur fight, and fell in love! 8 months after that I had my first pro fight!

2. This won't be your first fight for Rizin. What was it like fighting for them the first time? Also, how did it feel to fight inside a ring?

Alyssa: Holy Shit, talk about being thrown to the wolves! I was sent over there to lose, and I used that to my advantage. My coach Josh who has fought for Pride, knew what to expect. Me on the other hand had no idea I'd be fighting in front of 20,000+ people until we landed in Japan! I absolutely loved the experience with RIZIN and the Japanese fans, they love and appreciate us as athletes. I received gifts, was asked for my autograph, asked to take photos, I mean they know the sport and appreciate it. Fighting in a ring was a lot better than I expected, I actually like it better. I used it to my advantage!

3. What are your thoughts on the tournament? How did you find out you were going to be part of it and what would the $90,000 grand prize mean to you?

Alyssa: My thoughts on the tournament is "Alyssa Garcia the first ever RIZIN Women's GP World Champion" has a nice fucking ring to it! I'm going in there with confidence, knowing these women all want it, maybe as much as me but not more than me! I train hard, I'm still young and fairly new to the sport but I'm using that to my advantage. They hit me, I'm going to hit harder and faster! I'm very appreciative of this opportunity and when RIZIN asked us to be apart of it about a month and a half ago we jumped on no questions asked! That 90k prize is obviously something we could all use, but it's also a symbol that I'm headed in the right direction. I was working three jobs before I go this RIZIN GP call, so it would help a lot. To be fighting for a check that big says I'm closer and closer to being a full time fighter and all this hard work is paying off like I knew it would.

4. You will be fighting Olivera out of Brazil. What are your thoughts on your opponent? How do you see the fight going?

Alyssa: Olivera, she's tough. But I've fought tough, and won. Besides Rena and I, she's the nest toughest girl in this tournament. So to have her first round is nice. Once I get past her, it's a smooth path to the finals. She knows I'm a wrestler and I know she's a Muay Thai striker and I know what she'll be looking for. She's never fought a real wrestler and she will feel the difference

5. If you win your fight, there is a chance you'll face Kanna Asakura again. Can you talk about your first fight with her and how you see a potential rematch going? Does anyone else in the tournament stick out to you?

Alyssa: My fight with Kanna was a fight where all odds were against me. I was coming back from a year and a half, I was fighting in the biggest arena of my life in front of her fans, and we knew why we were being sent over there. I stuck to the game plan and everything went as planned, I should've finished that choke in the first round but I believe it was ring rust holding me back. I no longer have ring rust so there's no reason for me not to finish that fight if we meet up again.

6. You're coming off of a loss. Can you talk about anything you've changed or adjusted going into the tournament?

Alyssa: Yes, my last loss was me beating me. That armbar was not there, I was safe and got cocky, excited, I thought "let's be flashy" so I picked her up and slammed her, and lost position! I gave her that armbar. The changess I've made are my mindset. Play it smart, relax, and execute.

7. Is there a story behind the nickname "Tiny Tim"?

Alyssa: I was at one of my very first wrestling practices in high school and dislocated my knee! I had chopped all my hair off, I looked like a little boy. With a gimp knee I still went to practice to watch the practices and learn a little something by watching. I was like 4'10 so my crutches were too big, so I could only use one crutch. So picture, my little boy hair cut, a knee brace, and one crutch, My coach called me Tiny Tim from Christmas Carol limping into practice, and it stuck!

8. Can you talk about what its like to train with Josh Barnett? Also, can we expect to see you rocking the singlet again?

Alyssa: Training with Josh is a lot like eating veggies, you hate it but if you want to be the strongest kid you gotta do it! I'm just kidding, it's amazing. The dude's fight IQ is of the charts sometimes. He's made me into the fighter I am in such a small amount of time. He's really upped my fight game, my wrestling and my mentality to the next level. As much as that big ol nerd, is a big ol nerd, I love him and the UWFxUSA team and training with these monsters and weirdos has been one of the greatest things I've been apart of. Well you'll have to wait and see about the singlet, I like to keep secrets! ;)

9. Outside of MMA what kind of stuff do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies ect?

Alyssa: I mainly just work and train. I'm a big fan of films, I'm a bit of a movie buff. I like good reads too, mostly novels and my comics. I'll be taking some comics with me on that long ass flight to Japan! I like music and collecting music when I can. but everyone knows one of my favorite hobbies is pissing off and annoying Josh any chance I get! It's just so funny!

10. Is there anything that you would like to say? Anyone you would like to thank?

Alyssa: I'd like to thank my friends and family who understand and support why I never have time to see them! I'd like to thank Manny, of Tanler pest control who's supported me since the beginning, Rick Alarcon of ATTC who's helped me so much along the way, Jose Camacho of Damage Control who's been with me for a long time also and been an important part of my camps! Defila who's making my awesome fight gear and made that awesome singlet last Rizin event i was in, and CMMA who's let the UWFxUSA team get so much work in there consistently.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Reactions to McGregor Fight

Rena Kubota (Rizin / Shoot Boxing)

That was great fight😢❤️
I'm happy because of all the excitement towards martial arts!
I want this kind of passion in Japan too!
I must do my best✊🏻💥💥💥

And then such a passionate fight can unfold here as well (lol)

Kyoji Horiguchi (Rizin)

Yup~ That was a good time!
One's gotta be able to dream!

Kenji Osawa

 McGregor's dream came true after all! Those two men gave us a fight!

Shizuka Sugiyama (Deep Jewels)

Only 4 more rounds!

Erson Yamamoto (RIZIN)

Really? This is amazing~

Tenshin (RIZIN / Kickboxing)

I've realized my goal!
I want to have a fight like that in Japan!

Yachi Yusuke (RIZIN)

Mayweather was strong 😆❗️

Takafumi Otsuka

It's been a long time since I've seen Mayweather go on the attack like that! That was fun ^_^

Takeya Mizugaki (Former UFC and WEC)

McGregor vs Mayweather gochisousamadeshita! (what Japanese say after eating a meal)

Kid Yamamoto (UFC)
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai

They aren't fighting like they want to kill eachother. This is a game. Coming to one's hometown with the purpose of conquering the hometown, that is a strong profession.

Syuri Kondo (UFC)

They are both amazing!!!
This is unbelievable!!!
What an amazing fight!!! It was too fantastic😭

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Momo vs Yamazaki: Perspective

MMA veteran Kenji Osawa and Momo
In May, Deep Jewels 16 will take place. Outside of Japan, attention has been drawn to an amateur fight on the undercard between Momo and Momoko Yamazaki. Attention has been drawn to the fight because of the ages of the competitors as Momo is 12 and Yamazaki is 24. While any competition with such an age gap is bound to raise eyebrows, it is important to understand the circumstances surrounding the match.

First off, it is important to understand that the match is under Deep Jewels amateur rules. Both competitors will wear shin guards, knee pads, thicker gloves, and head gear. Strikes to the head are only allowed on the feet, while strikes like elbows are not allowed. Having witnessed a number of these matches, in effect, the match is divided into two hemispheres. On the feet, the match looks like an amateur kickboxing match, whereas on the ground, it looks like a grappling match. In addition, this match is taking place at a Deep Jewels event. In their professional fights, fights are regularly stopped for nose bleeds and "technical submissions," so it is safe to assume that the refs will be even quicker to stop a fight under the amateur rules.

Second, for those unfamiliar with the Japanese martial arts scene, this match may look like a squash match. I would have to agree, but on a different result. This match is clearly a match designed to build Momo, not Yamazaki. Momo trains at a strong gym with strong fighters and looks to potentially have a bright future. Yamazaki is a 24 year old, untrained, hostess. While it it true that Yamazaki has a 2-3 amateur record going into this fight, those stats are misleading. Her two wins are against opponents who have a combined record of 0-4 and all of those fights were in the Outsider promotion, a promotion that puts less emphasis on skill and more on brawls. Yamazaki was marketed as the hostess with a troubled past. In contrast, Momo has been training at Hakushinkai 6 days a week, four hours a day since she was 3.

Third, while this may seem like weird match making, Momo is following in the foot steps of her fellow gym mates and other young talent. Momo trains at Hakushinkai, a small but strong gym in Toyohashi, a 3 and 1/2 hour train ride from Tokyo. I had the opportunity to visit the gym two years ago and meet Coach Yamaguchi. He made a strong impression on me. Yamaguchi teaches mainly young athletes and above all stresses defense. This can be seen in two of his students, Mizuki Inoue and Yukari Yamaguchi, both of whom have excellent head movement and have been notably hard to hit.

Yukari started out, entering into Karate tournaments when she was 12. She then made her amateur mma debut when she was 13 against a 32 year old. She won the match via armbar. She then fought professionally in Shoot Boxing at 16, where she defeated Deep Jewels Champ and One FC title challenger V.V. Mei and Mio Tsumura in one night to become a Girl's S-Cup Champion.

Yukari vs Mei
Mizuki made her amateur kickboxing debut when she was 14, her pro Shoot Boxing debut at 15, and her mma debut at 16. Interestingly, she fought  and defeated Emi Fujino (29 at the time) when she was 15. She also fought in contact karate tournaments when she was 15. She then fought Alex Chambers when she was 17 and Bec Rawlings when she was 18.

Naoki Inoue, who will be making his UFC debut this year, made his amateur Shoot Boxing debut when he was 13. He also fought in two amateur mma matches when he was 13 and made his pro debut at 15. He is now 10-0.

What this pattern shows, is that Coach Yamaguchi tends to start athletes he feels are able in amateur completion around 13 or 14. Two of these three became world champions and one is making his UFC debut soon.

Matches like this are not that uncommon in Japan. Muay Thai phenom Saya Ito has been competing from a very young age. During her amateur days she fought Tenshin Nasukawa twice, without padding. In these matches, the top amateur female fought the top amateur male. Both eventually become world champions.

Recently, Japanese mma veteran and long-time trainer, Kenji Osawa made a trip to Hakushinkai with a camera crew to film a segment in preparation for Naoki's UFC debut. During his trip, Kenji had the opportunity to see and train with Momo. When asked about what he thought, he responded that "when I sparred with her, I could tell she trains everyday. She is very strong and I think, for her to be able to experience [this fight] will be a big plus for her future. Some fighters in Muay Thai became incredibly strong because they fought from a young age, so I have nothing but high expectations for Momo's future."
Coach Yamaguchi
Below is a message from Coach Yamaguchi:

"Hello to everyone in America, I am Yamaguchi, the chairman of Hakushinkai Karate. I heard there is an argument taking place in America about one of my students Momo fighting an adult, therefore, I would like to state my opinion and understanding in regards to this matter.

First of all, her fight is going to be held under amateur rules in the preliminary part of the event and Deep Jewels amateur rules are very safe. Some of the reports published in America have false information such as Momo will be fighting a professional fighter. That is not true at all. Momo is fighting an amateur fighter with no pro-experience. Also, Momo has been training 6 days a week since she was in kindergarten. So far she has competed in over 100 amateur BJJ, Kickboxing, and Karate matches, therefore, she has far more experience in combat sports than her upcoming opponent Ms. Momoko Yamazaki.

Since Momo is just three centimeteres shorter and three kilograms less than Yamazaki, I have decided to accept the offer from Deep Jewels because I believe Momo is fully capable of fighting Ms. Yamazaki. As far as I know, in the past, Jewels has done fights between 13 year olds vs adults, 12 year olds vs adults, and in those fights, the younger fighters won by submission.

Hakushinkai Karate may not have a large number of professional fighters but one of my students, Mizuki became a professional champion at 16 and received an offer from the UFC whens she was 18. Another student of mine, Yukari, also won a professional title at 16 and recently, Naoki, my other student, signed with the UFC at 19.

If you look at these proven track records of teenage fighters from my dojo, and if you can imagine the effort my students have been putting into training, I hope, all of you out there realize that this matchmaking by Deep Jewels is not something crazy. In addition, I've never forced my students to fight or compete. Momo is very excited about fighting for the promotion she has admired for years and she has been training very hard.

Because of the reasons stated above, I believe there is going to be no problem for Momo to fight Ms.  Yamazaki. But if you ask me, are you sure its not dangerous? Then, I can't say its not dangerous at all because, in any combat sport, there is always a possibility that a competitor could be in danger or lose  the fight in a lopsided manner. All combat sports can be dangerous but I believe the possibility of Momo getting hurt is the same as boxing or wrestling bouts between two competitors in the same weight division. In Japan, there are many young-teenagers competing in BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, and Boxing, and the sport that combined all of these skills is MMA, but I don't believe that this means MMA is more dangerous than these combat sports.

Again, the upcoming fight of Momo will be held under amateur rules and my understanding of these rules is that they are very safe for the competitors. I would also like to thank those who have raised their concern for my student, Momo. If I am one of those in the general public, that doesn't have a lot of knowledge about MMA, I would probably think along the same lines. However, because of the reasons stated above, I would appreciate it if you can understand that Momo's upcoming fight is not something very dangerous. I will probably come to the U.S. again in the near future with one of my students so I would greatly appreciate it if you in America could understand my opinions.


Sadanori Yamaguchi
Hakushinkai Karate

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ayaka Hamasaki Profile

Photo from www.genkifights.com
Name: Ayaka Hamasaki (浜崎 朱加)
Birthday: March 31, 1982
Birthplace: Yamaguchi-Ken, Japan
Height: 5"1 (158cm)
Weight: 105lb (47.6kg), 115 (52kg)
Record: 14-2
Notable Wins: Herica Tiburcio, Yuka Tsuji, Mizuki Inoue, Ham Seo Hee, Amber Brown, Jinh Yu Frey

Ayaka Hamasaki, is the Invicta FC 105lb Champion, has defended her title twice, is the first Japanese fighter to win an American MMA title, and has been named the atomweight of the year three years in a row. In other words, she is a very impressive fighter. However impressive she is, not a lot is known about this fighter, at least outside of Japan. I first saw her compete in a grappling match against Saori Ishioka in 2011 and have followed her career since. Over that time, I have had the opportunity to interview her several times. The information in this article comes from those interviews, other interviews, people that known Ayaka, and Ayaka herself.

The Pre-MMA Years

Ayaka Hamasaki was mischievous growing up, sometimes skipping school. This annoyed her teachers, who wanted her to join the Judo club, where some of her friends were. Ayaka lived in a dorm near her high school, with roughly 30-40 other kids. In addition, the school had an athletic focus, requiring all of the students to join a sports club. So with little choice in the matter, Ayaka joined the Judo club. In her own words, Judo was heart breaking. Practices were hard, intense and constant. During the school year, Ayaka trained in the morning, went to classes and trained again in the evening. During the summer time, she trained 2 to 3 times a day. During winter break, she trained. Judo was a constant in her life.

After high school, Ayaka continued with Judo through college, where she placed second in the All Japan Junior Judo Championship, losing to a future world champion. Ayaka would not reach any higher though, as she was sidelined with an injury. She continued with Judo even after graduating, however after a year and a half she quit. Having competed in Judo from high school till she was 23, Judo was not something that Ayaka necessarily enjoyed. Judo sometimes made her angry. However, she recognizes that Judo transformed her life and for that she is very grateful.

Post Judo

Rina Tomita liked MMA and was a fan of Miku Matsumoto. Miku was making waves in Japan, competing for and eventually headlining Deep events. At one of those events, Rina asked Miku where she could train, what gym did Miku recommend. As she lived and trained far away from Tokyo, Miku told Rina to go train with Megumi Fujii at AACC. Three months into training at AACC, Rina wanted to get physically stronger. So she met with a personal trainer named Ayaka Hamasaki. As they talked, Ayaka learned that Rina was training at AACC. While Ayaka knew about MMA, this is the first time she heard about women competing. As a result of their meeting, Ayaka went with Rina to AACC. Once there she met Megumi. Ayaka didn't know about Megumi, but was immediately impressed by her physique.

Ayaka, Rina, Megumi
Ayaka didn't want to become a professional fighter. She wanted to exercise and work-off some stress. Even though she was lifting weights through her job as a personal trainer, Ayaka missed the workouts from her Judo days, where she got to use and move her whole body.

When she first started training, Ayaka made an impression on those at the gym. Megumi and Abe-sensei didn't think that Ayaka would go pro, but there was a consensus that she showed promise. While she lacked many of the skills a fighter needs, her background in Judo and her explosive power would provide an excellent foundation. In the beginning, her lack of technique was apparent. It looked like she hated striking, shadowboxing especially, and when Ayaka rolled with Rina, Rina would beat her.

Megumi remembers rolling with Ayaka, both with the gi and then without the gi. Ayaka's movements and responses to her movements impressed her. Knowing about her background, Megumi thought that this kid has got what it takes to make it.

After training for a bout a month, Rina couldn't beat her anymore.

The Grappling Matches

After training for about 3 months, Ayaka started to think about competing in some grappling matches. In addition to her Judo background, she had been going to grappling practice at AACC. Eventually, someone asked her if she'd like to compete and she started competing in 2008.

At 29, Ayaka competed in her 5th grappling match, this time against the young up-and-coming pro-wrestler, Hikaru Shida. Hikaru is a successful pro-wrestler now, but at the time her bjj coach thought that she had the best grappling of any pro-wrestler he had trained. In his mind, she was capable of doing both pro-wrestling and real fights. Going into the fight, he had seen Ayaka compete in person, at a blue belt bjj tournament, where Ayaka lost. In his opinion, she was a good grappler but lacked basic bjj techniques, like how to break an opponent's guard. While it is true that Ayaka was still developing, it took her only 48 seconds to submit Hikaru.

Ayaka defeated Hikaru in 48 seconds

Amateur MMA

While Ayaka was coming to AACC, she was only coming to the grappling practices. However, after some time, she was invited to come to the striking classes. Even though she didn't know how to do anything, she really enjoyed it. Around the same time, Ayaka went to an MMA event for the first time and saw Megumi fight. Even though she had just started striking, after seeing Megumi fight, she wanted to give it a try. This is how a year and a half after walking into AACC, Ayaka made her amateur debut.

She made her debut in 2009, fighting twice in one night for Jewels. She finished the first fight via submission and the second fight went to a draw. Three months later she won another amateur fight. Two months later she won two more amateur fights in the same night. All-in-all she went 4-0-1 as an amateur, with 3 submissions.

The Pro-Debut

Ayaka's last two amateur fights occurred in one night. It was a Shooto event hosted by Yoichi Suzuki, the head of Alive Gym. He was obviously impressed by what he saw, as shortly after the event, Ayaka received an offer for a professional fight. Even though she never had a goal of fighting professionally, when the offer came, she talked to Megumi about it. They quickly decided to accept the offer. It was just a step up from what Ayaka was already doing.

Ayaka made her pro-debut against Konkua Sasaki in 2009. Kinuka was a veteran of Smackgirl and had amassed a record of 3-7, a common Japanese phenomenon at the time, before the fight. Ayaka didn't know anything about her opponent. Despite her record, Kinkuka did not go down easily, actually dropping Ayaka in the opening round. But Ayaka kept coming forward and submitted her in the 2nd round. 2009 had been a big year for Ayaka, fighting 5 times as an amateur and making her pro-debut.

The Jewels Years

Shooto was not the only organization that saw potential in Ayaka. Yuichi Ozono, the head of Jewels, noticed her as well. She had fought for Jewels several time as an amateur. When he saw her fight, he saw how good she moved. Megumi had been known as the "Queen of the Quick Kill", and he saw the similar quality in Ayaka. He knew that she could compete on the world stage.

This is how she was brought into the Jewels tournament to decide the first 52kg champion. In the first round of the tournament, Ayaka quickly won her match by submission in 48 seconds. In other matches, Mika Nagano defeated Celine Haga, Ham Seo Hee won her match, and Sakura Nomura won her match. The 2nd round and final match would be fought on the same day. In the 2nd round, Ayaka defeated Sakura, and Ham defeated Nagano. 5 matches later, Ayaka defeated Ham be decision to become the inaugural Jewels 52kg Champion. She had been fighting professionally for a little more than a year.

Afterwards, Ayaka fought Mizuki Inoue, who had also won a tournament. Ayaka dominated the match with her grappling, repeatedly taking Mizuki down then going for numerous submission attempts. This set up a Ham rematch, since Ham had beaten Saori Ishioka and V.V. Mei sine their last fight. In what was a highly anticipated rematch, Ham got injured in the first round. At the end of the round, she was not able to stand and it was obvious the fight was over.

After dominating the young talent in Mizuki, with whom she was very impressed, and having a disappointing result in the match with Ham, Ayaka fought what she considers to be the most important match of her Jewels career. In her next match, she fought Yuka Tsuji. If you are unfamiliar, Tsuji is a legend on the Japanese MMA scene. Arguably the biggest star during Smackgirl, Tsuji defeated a who's who of talent, amassing a record of 23-2, with 16 submissions and 2 ko's, before the fight with Ayaka. In addition to her fighting skill, Tsuji was a widely recognized figurehead of women in MMA in Japan. Tsuji had headlined the Inoki Bom-Bay-Ye 2003 event in front of over 43,000 people and on Japanese TV. Equally impressive, is that she headlined the event over names like Alistair Overeem, Fedor, Josh Barnett, Semmy Schilt, Alexander Emelianenko, Lyoto Machida and Rich Franklin. Even more, Ayaka was going to fight Tsuji in her hometown of Osaka. She trained very hard for this fight, thinking only about winning.

The support for Tsuji was incredible, but it didn't phase Ayaka. In her mind, she's never the hometown favorite, so it didn't bother her.

Ayaka destroyed Tsuji. She submitted her with a double-wrist lock in the first round. Afterwards, a teary eyed Ayaka hugged her mentor Megumi. When asked about it, she remembers that she had never fought a fighter that was on the level of Tsuji before and that even though she didn't think it would affect her, she was so happy that she couldn't help but cry when she won. While Tsuji may have been the hometown favorite, people climbed into the ring to be with Ayaka. Her seniors and juniors from college had traveled from all over Japan to see the fight. Afterwards, they all took a picture together in the ring. Gong magazine later dubbed the double-wrist lock that she won with, the "Hama-Lock". A play on one of the submission's names and her name. The name closely resembled Megumi's "Megu-Lock". In many ways, Ayaka's defeat of Tsuji announced the arrival of a new generation.

The "Hama-Lock"
Invicta FC

Two months after the biggest win of her career, Ayaka got the chance to do something she never thought she would, fight abroad. The promotion was Invicta and it was their second event. Ayaka was looking forward to testing herself abroad. Some fighters might have been nervous, but Ayaka wasn't. In what is a common characteristic in all of her fights, Ayaka took the fight for what it was, excited, not nervous. An opportunity to challenge herself. And this fight did present a lot of challenges. Ayaka had never fought under the unified rules before, never fought in a cage before, and still did not consider herself a world level fighter.

In the fight, Ayaka fought Lacey Schuckman. Thinking back on the fight, Lacey's physical strength sticks out the most to her. At the time, Ayaka, like Megumi, didn't cut weight. Instead she walked around at roughly 52kg (115). Nevertheless, Ayaka was able to take Lacey down numerous times throughout the fight and in the end, won via a hard fought submission. She had been in positions where she could have thrown elbows, but she was still getting used to the new rules, elbows still felt unnatural. Even though she won, Ayaka left the match feeling like she still had a lot to learn.

After defeating Emi Fujino in Japan, Ayaka's next fight in Invicta was supposed to be against Carla Esparza for the Invicta 115 title, but Carla had to withdraw because of an injury. As a result, Ayaka was slated to face Claudia Gadelha. This fight would be an important moment in Ayaka's career. She was looking forward to fighting a larger opponent, as she thought it would be a good test for future fights against larger non-Japanese fighters. A week before the fight it was in jeopardy. A week before the fight, Ayaka was informed that she would not be allowed to tape her knees. Ayaka needed to tape her knees but didn't feel like she could pull out for that reason. She had trained really hard, but she knew the tape would be a problem. Ayaka lost the fight via TKO in the 3rd round. Thinking back on the fight, Ayaka remembers how strong Claudia was, she couldn't do anything.

Surgery and Return to Japan

A month after her fight with Claudia, Ayaka had surgery to fix her knees. She didn't want to tape her legs anymore. The surgery would put her out of commission for a little more than a year, making the future uncertain. A lot of changes had occurred during her rehabilitation. Megumi Fujii had retired and moved to the other side of the country, Hitomi Akano and Rina Tomita had also retired. When Megumi left, other women also stopped coming to the gym, 9 in total. Ayaka felt lonely in the gym, being one of the only women left. Outside of the gym changes, Jewels had been absorbed into Deep becoming Deep Jewels, leaving Ayaka's future in Japan uncertain. She also didn't know what division she wanted to fight in. She had never tried to make 105 before, but it was an option. When I spoke to her during her rehabilitation, she didn't know who she wanted to fight for or at what weight, but she wanted to fight in Japan.

Even though she said that she wanted her next fight to be in Japan, she was originally slated to make her return fight on the Invicta FC 9 card, against Herica Tiburcio, but visa issues led to Herica not being able to compete, so the match was scrapped. Her return would be for Deep Jewels, against fellow Invicta and Jewels veteran Sugirock. Interestingly, Ayaka was uncharacteristically nervous, as she was coming off of the surgery, she would not be taping her knees, and she was dropping down to 48kg(105), something she had never done before.

Even though she hadn't fought for a year, Ayaka looked very good in her atomweight debut, dropping Sugirock with strikes and tko'ing her in the first round. While Ayaka had looked good at 115, she seemed to have more power at 105.

Ayaka drops Sugirock with punches
Photo courtesy of Lady Go!
Next, she fought again in Japan, this time against V.V. Mei. V.V. Mei had also been testing herself abroad and had previously fought in an action packed war against Megumi. This fight was part of a Deep New Year's Eve event at Saitama Super Arena. The event had severally highly promoted womens' fights on the card, showing that like in the U.S., things were changing in Japan. Women were becoming more and more part of mainstream MMA and Ayaka was in the top women's fight on the card. She won a fairly dominant decision and in doing so, was named the 2014 Atomweight of the Year.

The Championship

While Ayaka was looking very strong at 105 in Japan, she wanted to fight in America, she wanted to make another run for the Invicta title, this time at 105. Ayaka had been previously slated to fight Herica Tibrucio, but the fight didn't come to fruition. In the meantime, Herica had become the Invicta FC 105 champion. The fight was rescheduled, this time for the title. Because it was for the title, the fight felt special to Ayaka and as a result, she felt a little nervous before the fight, but she was excited.

In what she describes as a troubling trend in her Invicta title fights, Ayaka had a rough first round against Herica. Herica hit her with a hard body shot and seemed to have a deep choke locked in when the round ended. In the following rounds, Ayaka repeatedly took Herica down, who while active on the bottom, was resigned to acting defensively. In the end, Ayaka won a 2-1 split decision to become the champion. To be honest, she was surprised. She thought she had done enough to win a clear decision. She doesn't speak English so didn't know what was going on and was worried when she heard that it was a split decision.

Courtesy of All Elbows
Even though though she was the champ, it didn't set in immediately. It didn't really set in till afterwards, when she was eating with her friends. People had traveled from all over to watch Ayaka fight for the title. The head of Inspirit, a long time sponsor of hers, Shooto Legend Rumina Sato, and friends from around America came to watch the fight and to celebrate afterwards. In winning the title, Ayaka had become the first Japanese fighter to win an American title and it was a big deal. Japanese fighters like Tatsuya Kawajiri were congratulating her on Twitter, she graced the cover of magazines, and an event was planned to celebrate her victory.

An advertisement for the event. Amongst those who showed up were:
Kenji Osawa, Funaki, the Pancrase CEO, the Deep head, and the former Jewels head.
Ayaka was once again named the atomweight of the year, in 2015.

Ayaka wouldn't fight again for almost another year, this time against Amber Brown. Amber came to a lot of people's attention when she fought Emi Fujino and Kikuya Ishikawa in Japan. Afterwards, she had been signed to Invicta, where she won three fights in a row to earn this title fight. A physical fighter known for her endurance, Amber looked to be a solid challenge for Ayaka. The fight was an amazing fight. The fight went back and forth, but Ayaka was able to get Amber to reluctantly submit near the end of the third. Prior to the submission, Ayaka had transitioned from numerous arm locks as the two rolled around. In her corner, was a new face, Rena. While not especially popular outside of Japan, Rena is a big star in Japan. A multiple time Shoot Boxing champion, Rena made the transition to MMA and is now one of the faces of Rizin in Japan. It is a perfect match, training wise as Ayaka has a grappling background and Rena is a world-class striker. Hamasaki is usually in Rena's corner now when she fights. As mentioned above, there was a time period when a lot of the women left AACC, but now new talent was starting to come. Some of their attraction to the gym, has to be attributed to Ayaka.

Ayaka began gracing more and more Japanese magazines on a regular basis.
Ayaka didn't wait long to step back in the cage again, this time against Jihn Yu Frey, who had defeated Herica Tiburcio in her last fight. Frey's power had been on display in the fight, where she dropped Herica with a punch near the end of a round. Frey's power was evident in the first round of the fight with Ayaka. As Ayaka jokes, she's had some bad first rounds in her title defenses, but Ayaka started to fight her way back. Unfortunately the fight was marred with controversy. Ayaka connected with a very solid punch that cut Frey above the eye. To some, the punch appeared to have badly phased Frey, but we will never know. The ref stopped the fight due to the cut, leaving a sour taste in everyone's mouth, the fans, the corners, the media, Ayaka, and Frey.

Before the Amber fight, Rena had started training with Ayaka. After the Frey fight, Emi Fujino and Ayaka Miura started coming to train with Ayaka. People wanted to train with the champion. Increasing opportunities for women, opened up training partners for these women. A couple years before, these women couldn't train together because it was very likely they would have to fight each other. Not anymore. Ayaka fights for Invicta, Rena fights for Rizin, Emi fights for Road FC, Miura fights for Pancrase, and V.V. Mei fights for One Championship, meaning that all of these former rivals can now train together. Iron sharpens iron, and by these top women now being able to train together, their own skills will only rise.

Ayaka was once again the atomweight of the year, in 2016.

The UFC Dream

In her last fight, Ayaka once again tried to make a run at 115 in Invicta, this time against the former champ Souza. When asked why, the answer is simple, she wants to fight in the UFC. For her, as a mma fighter, UFC is the dream. One must imagine that it is somewhat frustrating for her to see past opponents and past Invicta 105ers get shots in the UFC, but for her, the call has yet to come. She may have lost, but do not count Ayaka out. She came back better than ever after her first defeat and one should expect her to come back even better after this loss. Once she is healed up, we should expect to see the easy going, motorcycle riding, cat loving, nerves of steel Ayaka back to her winning ways.