Monday, November 14, 2016

A conversation with Saya

Saya Ito, Picture Courtesy of Lady Go!

As some of you may know, Saya Ito is a Japanese senior in high school, who also happens to be one of the best 100lb fighters on the planet. Earlier this year, she became the WPMF Champion by defeating fellow Japanese fighter Little Tiger. There was some interesting lead up to the fight because it seemed to many that Little Tiger was avoiding Saya, which led to Saya going to a press conference and calling Little Tiger out. Saya proceeded to beat Little Tiger that night and later again, but injured her foot and has been noticeably absent from action. In addition, she relinquished her title. Some people, myself included, were curious to hear more about what happened to Saya. That curiosity led to the following conversation:

CJ: So, when did you injure your leg, was it in the first Little Tiger fight?
Saya: It was injured for a long time before the fight with Little Tiger. However, since I started taking more fights with a shorter turn-around, it got even worse.

CJ: Where exactly did it get injured?
Saya: At first it was the top of my right foot, the instep. It broke in the Little Tiger fight.

CJ: Do you remember when in the fight?
Saya: No, I don't remember.

CJ: Do you remember when it started giving you trouble?
Saya: No, I don't remember when it started hurting, I just remember that it had been hurting for a long time.

CJ: Can you talk about your second fight with Little Tiger?
Saya: My foot felt perfect during the fight. However, after the fight the same spot started to hurt again.

CJ: You tried really hard to get the first fight with Little Tiger. What was it like beating her twice?
Saya: I was happy about it, I didn't think that she could beat me.

CJ: Why were you so confident that you could beat her?
Saya: Because it was a Muay Thai fight.

CJ: You're saying you'd beat her because it wasn't a kickboxing fight?
Saya: That's right.

CJ: Do you think you want to fight her again next year? (She is the current WPMF Champion)
Saya: I don't think that I want to fight her.

CJ: Do you think you will fight next year?
Saya: I think so. I graduate from high school in March, so I am thinking about it.
CJ: I see.

Courtesy of LadyGo!
CJ: Is it ok if I ask you some questions about your WPMF title?
Saya: That's fine.

CJ: Why are you no longer the champion?
Saya: I couldn't defend the title, so I gave it up.

CJ: Was that your idea?
Saya: I couldn't fight, so I voluntarily gave it up.  In reality, I wouldn't have been able to defend the title in at least six months.
CJ: I see.

CJ: Some people thought that the WPMF might have stripped the title from you.
Saya: The head of Weerasakreck wanted me to have another rematch with Little Tiger. But I thought that fighting her three times in a row didn't really make sense, so I didn't do it and my coach and I returned the belt.

CJ: Is her coach an important figure with WPMF?
Saya: I don't understand the question.
CJ: I ask because it seems like Little Tiger is always able to get shots at the WPMF title. (laughter)
Saya: That's right (laughter)

CJ: Do you still want to train and fight in Thailaind?
Saya: I think so.

CJ: Back to the title, so did you give up the title because you didn't want to have a rematch with Little Tiger or because of your injury?
Saya: For both reasons. To start with, my foot was no good, then I told them there wouldn't be a third fight with Little Tiger, I told them I didn't understand what the meaning or purpose of fighting her again was so I refused to do it.

Saya Ito vs Little Tiger
Courtesy of LadyGo!
CJ: Is it ok if we move onto some questions people asked?
Saya: That's fine!

Q: Was it difficult training while going to high school, Japanese high school can be pretty difficult.
Saya: It wasn't that it was difficult, I was just very busy.

Q: What do your friends think of you being a fighter?
Saya: They support me.
CJ: Do they come to your fights?
Saya: There are times when they come.

Q: Is there any manga or anime that you like?
Saya: I like Drangonball Z! (laughter)
CJ: Which character do you like?
Saya: Goku!

Q: Since you've been injured, have you still been training?
Saya: Not really, I have been concentrating on studying for school.
CJ: That's right, are you thinking of taking the entrance exams?
Saya: I'm still thinking about it.

Q: Can you talk about what is unique about Thai fighters, what makes them different from Japanese fighters?
Saya: When I first trained in Thailand, the first thing that came to my mind was the difference in the amount of training.
CJ: Did you notice anything different about their style?
Saya: Do you mean their fight style?
CJ: Yes.
Saya: Since Japan has a lot of kickboxers, I think Japanese fighters tend to come forward more aggressively.

Q: Do you still want to fight around the world?
Saya: I think so.

CJ: If you go to college, do you think you'll take a break from Muay Thai?
Saya: It will depend on the circumstances at that time.

Q: What is the difference between Japanese and Thai judges?
Saya: In Japan, there are not a lot of points given in the clinch. In Japan, they also give more points for punching.
CJ: Yes, I've heard that in Thailand they do not give a lot of points for punches.
Saya: Yes, that's right, I don't think they give a lot of points for punches in Thailand.
CJ: I've also heard that the first round isn't that important in Thailand, what is it like in Japan?
Saya: In Japan, there are Japanese judges so the first round is also important.

CJ: Before you talked about how busy you were with school, your job, and training, what was your schedule like?
Saya: From Monday to Friday, I went to school then trained. On Saturday and Sunday, I worked at my part-time job. On days that I didn't have work, I met up with my friends or went to watch fights.

CJ: Thanks for answering all these questions. Is there anything you would like to say?
Saya: It's not a problem. When I return, I would like you all to continue to support me!

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