Bec Hyatt Interview 7/12/13
In one of the more intriguing matches this Saturday, Australian stand-out Bec Hyatt (5-2) will face off against Japanese youngster Mizuki Inoue (5-1). There are several interesting factors going into this fight. Going into this fight, Hyatt has gone 1-1 in Invicta. She lost a decision to Carla Esparza (9-2) in a fight where she was dominated in the wrestling department. She did however have her moments on the feet, especially in the 5th. Following that fight, Bec easily dispatched Jasminka Cive (5-1). So it is hard to see where Bec sits in the division right now. Her match against #10 ranked Mizuki should figure out her place in the division. I had the opportunity to interview Bec over the phone and have transcribed the conversation here;
CJ:I thought we could start with some questions about your last fight. What was it like fighting at Invicta again, were a lot of the jitters gone?
BH: I don't really get jitters, I get excited. I only get nervous probably a few weeks out, once I get to the venue and weigh-ins and things like that I'm just excited more than anything, it wasn't any different than the first time, I was just excited to get in there and punch someone in the face.
CJ: Your pre-fight exchanges with Jasminka were pretty epic. The promotional video you made with Kedzie and her was very intense. Can you talk about that?
BH: Yeah, that was crazy. When the video people actually contacted me to set it up, I had to double check with them, are you sure you wanna do this video because it could get nasty. And they laughed and said that's what we want. I'm like ok you asked for it, you're gonna get it. Jasminka was sitting in there waiting with her manager, me, I was a few minutes late so I think that made her even more angrier, and it was intense, I think everyone in the room was ready for the fight then and there. Even Julie got so worked up that she even dropped an F bomb in the middle of it, it was very intense.
CJ: When she said, "I will hurt you", I know I was stunned a little.
BH: Yeah, everyone said it sounded like she was from the Russian Mafia.
CJ: Last time we talked you said you wanted to have some waffles, did you ever get to have them?BH: I did. Yes, I went to IHOP and had waffles, they were the best, the blueberry or raspberry sauce somebody recommended to have, so yeah it was beautiful.
CJ: Can we expect another video blog or something?
BH: Yea, actually I'm teaming up with a guy that got in contact with me, we're gonna be doing like a primetime style video shoot. So it's not gonna be like a video blog with me and my iPhone or anything like that, it's gonna be shot proper primetime style, it's gonna follow my training and a bit of my family life. I am pretty excited to start filming that, I think we start next week or the week after. It should be released just before I fly out.
CJ: How is training camp going?
BH: Camps been great, it's been flawless so far. I'm just getting into the hard grappling and sparring now. Just trying to up the intensity, I pretty much train full noise up until I get on the plane, because then I have a week off, a few days in transit and then I have a few days to adjust where I can only hit pads and stuff. So yeah, I train all the way up till I get on the plane, so I've been doing two a days trying to get in all my grappling rounds, wrestling and striking. It's all coming together nicely.
CJ: Have you seen any major improvements?
BH: Nothing major. Look I'm always looking to improve my game, always trying to fix the little holes that you see. I'm trying to fight more smart. I realize that, when I watch my tapes, I just go in there and try to knock their heads off without thinking about it, I'm trying to hard. And, I've noticed that I do more damage when I'm not trying so hard, I'm definitely gonna go out there and not look for things so much. Just let them happen naturally, I've been working on that. Still working on wrestling, just let it all build up, let it all improve at the same time, stay all-rounded. I don't like being better at one thing, I want to be all-rounded and scary and difficult in all areas.
CJ: For those that don't know what it's like can you describe an average day of training?
BH: An average day of training, I get up quite early with my two children and get their breakfast then get my breakfast. Then I get them ready and I will either go to the gym and do strength and conditioning and weights. Weights consist of, depending on what day, heavy squats, or heavy bench or heavy dead lift and I'll team that up with chin-ups or push-ups. And then, my next day I do sprints instead of weight training, normally the kids are at school so I don't have to drag them along with me, so I'll do stair sprints or hill sprints and ill do 12 of those with no rest, I sprint up I jog back. That normally takes about half an hour. At night I do light training, thats where I get in my pads, sparring, grappling, wrestling, and through the day three times a week I head to the Gold Coast, which is about a 30 minute drive, and I get in some wrestling rounds with Danny, who was a NCAA wrester in the States, he's my weight, like a little midget, we have some good wrestles. He smashes me, he keeps telling me if I can stop his double leg no one is going to take me down, he is great fun to work with. I'm a busy girl.
CJ: It is pretty hard to find videos of Japanese fighters sometimes. Have you been able to see any footage of Mizuki?
BH: Yeah, my coach Melvin, is like a super spy, he managed to track down everything. he has connections in Japan as well. he's managed to track down a lot of her footage and he's analyzed it and told me what to work on. I don't really watch a lot of footage of my opponents. I'll probably watch a little of it but that's all that interests me. I just pretty much train and do what my coach tells me to do. He tells me what to do and I just do it. He managed to find it, I think he used the trick of typing her name in Japanese instead of English.
CJ: What's it like having an opponent who can't understand what you are saying?
BH: I hate it, actually. I like to, like with Jasmika, that was fun. I liked teasing her and getting her all fired up. I always get told to stop poking the lion, because I'm always tormenting someone. So it's pretty hard to torment her because she can't understand what I am saying and I don't want to be disrespectful or anything, I don't want her to take it the wrong way. She's a young girl and she's Japanese, they are lovely people and I don't want to offend anyone.
CJ: She is coming from Jewels. I don't know if you know, but Jewels has become a part of Deep. They announced that they want to hold a tournament with the world's best fighters. Would you be interested?
BH: I'm signed to Invicta, I'm happy with Invicta. It just all depends on what goes on there, it's up to my management really. But I always am looking to fight the best, we'll have to wait and see.
CJ: In a lot of your promotion, you have been saying that you want her #10 ranking, who would you want next?
BH: I want anyone that is going to get me closer to the title shot. I want that belt. I want that shiny gold belt around my waist. Anyone that is going to get me there, I'll take. I'm not picky, as long as it gets me close to the title show, I'll take it.
CJ: The Strawweight Division, has a lot of strong fighters. However, it seem like the top fighters are spread out over several organizations. What needs to happen to get those fights to happen?
BH: I don't know, they ask around everywhere, I think the organizations have been a little bit greedy. I don't know. They need to stop being greedy and let us fight, let us punch people in the face.
CJ: This will be your 3rd trip to Invicta. Are you still having your fan girl moments?
BH: I still have fan girl moments, I don't think they'll ever disappear when I meet people. It still doesn't feel real that I am over there meeting or fighting on the same card as cyborg and things like that. You know a few years ago I was just getting into the sport and watching all their videos and going wow I would love to be there one day. I'm getting there, so it's definitely very surreal.
CJ: Can you talk about the women's MMA scene in Australia?
BH: It's expanding, it's amazing to see how many girls are getting into the sport now and actually fighting. Before you would barely see one girl's fight on a card every few months. but now there seems to be a girls fight on every promotion on every card, so its definitely growing, and the girls are coming out of the woodwork and enjoying it. It's great to see that people like me, Alex Chambers and Fiona and the girls who have been doing all the hard work for awhile now, it's nice to see the handwork pay off.
CJ: What's fight week like at Invicta? are there a lot of obligations?
BH: Fights weeks pretty hectic, but I get a lot of media interviews doing a lot of those and doing video shoots and photo shoots as well. Lots of things like that. Then you gotta juggle weight cutting and finding the right food and all that. It does get a bit hectic. It keeps me busy and stops me thinking about food. The busier I am the happier I am because I'm not sitting around watching tv ads about Denny's or IHOP and freaking out at the tv.
CJ: Speaking of that, first fight was sonic, 2nd fight was waffles, what's it gonna be this time?
BH: I've been watching man vs food and he actually went to Kansas City so I'm gonna go do one of those challenges. One of them, Ive actually went there but I was weight cutting, it was bbq, I'm trying to think were it was. it was in a little petrol station, a gas station is what you call it, we call it a petrol station, I probably won't go there but I can't remember the other one. Anything that requires huge amounts of food, I'm there.
CJ: Can you talk about the Pro's and Con's of self promotion?
BH: The Pro's is definitely the fans and the support and getting the opportunities I get because I have such a huge following. Being brought back by invicta 3 times is amazing and I love it, I love staying busy, I love fighting every 3 months. Thats def a pro. The down side is when something happens in your family life, a litte bit of drama, you've go to explain yourself to them, when a media outlet gets there ahold of it and starts running a story, I feel like I need to inform them and let them know everything is ok. Trying to set the record straight, which I've never had to experience before. What happens at home is my business and is no one else's. But thats deff a down side, your personal life gets dragged into it a little bit.
CJ: Can you give any advice to aspiring fighters on how to build their own brand, since you're kind of an expert.
BH: You've gotta be relentless with it. To get the, I call it, the hype train. Don't be afraid to spam people because you've gotta spam them to let them know what's going on. Because if they like it then their friend is going to see it and then they are going to get on the hype train hopefully. Thats deff one of the main things I did when I started off. I spammed everyone. So many people hated me for it. I took the hate with the love, it's deff worked for me. Don't be afraid to spam people.
CJ: Anything you would like to say? Any people you wanna thank?
BH: I would like to thank my gym Impact MMA, all the other gyms that have opened there doors to me. I'd also like to thank my major sponor americanmma and my management alchemist management, I wouldn't be able to do it without you guys and inivcta for bringing me back and letting me punch someone in the face.
We'd like to thank Bec for taking the time out of her busy schedule!
Ayaka Hamasaki Interview 7/11/12
Jewels' inaugural and final Lightweight Champion, Ayaka Hamasaki (9-0), will be making her stateside return this weekend. Having amassed a perfect record, the undefeated fighter will be facing off against Claudia Gadelha, another undefeated fighter. We had the opportunity to talk to Ayaka about her upcoming fight and WMMA in Japan. With the announcement of Megumi Fujii's retirement in October, Ayaka's mentor, Ayaka stands in a prime position to become the top female fighter in her home country. A win this weekend, will not only solidify her ranking in Japan but in the World.
CJ: Last December you had your fight with Emi Fujino. It was a really entertaining fight. Can you talk about it a little bit? What did you think of the fight?
AH: Emi Fujino was very physically strong and she had a lot of stamina, she was so strong. It was a really good experience for me!
CJ: How is your training going? How is your stamina?
AH: I am nervous because (I thought it would be) my first 5 round fight, because of that I am training really hard so there will not be a problem.
CJ: You train with Megumi Fujii. How is that?
AH: Fujii knows my weak and strong points so she always gives me very precise advice.
CJ: At the this event, Mizuki will also be fighting. What do you think of her opponent and who do you think will win?
AH: Her opponent looks like she is strong, I think she will be a good opponent, Mizuki is also really strong, so I think Mizuki will win in July.
CJ: Are you looking forward to the event? Is there anything you want to do or eat in Kansas
AH: I am really looking forward to the fight. If there is time after the fight, I would like to eat some good food nearby.
CJ: What's the difference between American WMMA and Japanese WMMA?
AH: I feel like American WMMA is prospering a lot more than Japanese WMMA right now.
CJ: About your Jewels title, who do you think you will fight next? Is there someone you want to fight?
AH: There are still some Japanese fighters I have yet to face, so I am ok with fighting anyone.
CJ: Do you have any career goals? Anything you want to do?
AH: Right now my objective is the Invicta belt.
CJ: What do you do in your free time? I heard you have a motorcycle, what's that like?
AH: I like motorcycles. Since it's starting to get warmer, on my days off from work I want to go out and ride.
CJ: When the UFC came to Japan, you had the opportunity to train with Miesha Tate. What was that like?
AH: I wasn't able to do any grappling sparring with her but she moves really fast, she has a lot of power, she's really strong!
CJ: What did you think when your opponent was changed?
AH: The change of opponent is not a problem. Whoever my opponent is, I have been training the best I can.
CJ: What do you think of your new opponent? She used to compete at 130, what do you think of her size?
AH: Her appearance makes her look really big, she looks physical and strong. There are a lot of foreign fighters like this so this is a challenge I need to tackle.
CJ: Jewels became a part of Deep and is now Deep Jewels. What are your thoughts and do you have any good memories of Jewels?
AH: To Ozono, who started up Jewels, and to SV's Saeki I am extremely grateful. Even though from now on the name has been changed to Deep Jewels, I will never forget the feeling of my Jewels debut and I want to keep fighting for them! And furthermore, I am want to show lots of people women's MMA.
CJ: Is there anything you would like to say?
AH: I'm gonna try my best in July, so please support me. I am really looking forward to it.
I would like to thank Ayaka for taking the time to answer our questions. Thanks also to LADY GO! for his pictures.
Mizuki Inoue Interview 7/9/13
This weekend, one of Japan's top prospects will be making her international debut. With a series of impressive victories in both MMA and Shoot Boxing, Mizuki Inoue (5-1) is a rising star in Japan. A win over her next opponent, Bec Hyatt (5-2), will likely launch her into the international spotlight, as Hyatt is one of the more high profile fighters under the Invicta banner. On a card full of exciting fights, the Bec Hyatt vs Mizuki Inoue fight is one of the more interesting fights on the card. A win for Hyatt will most likely push her into the rankings and a win for Mizuki will surely bring her another offer to fight for the promotion. I had the chance to interview the rising star, so enjoy:
MI: Well, I was born August 19th, 1994, I am 162cm (5"4) 56 Kg (123lbs) and I will be turning 19 this year. Since I graduated from high school, I go to work and train everyday. I started doing Karate when I was 10, my younger brother had started and that is how I got the chance. I made my Pro debut in the summer of my first year in high school. Now, I was able to to take a Shoot Boxing belt.
CJ: Last year, you became a Shoot Boxing Champion. What was that experience like? How did it feel?
MI: Competing in Shoot Boxing was a good experience. I feel like it was a reward for all of my hard work up to that point. It is my first belt, so it made me really happy and I am going to keep training will all of my power to get stronger. I am still lacking in experience and my experience is still young, nevertheless I want to have better fights.
CJ: For a professional fighter you still are very young. You just graduated high school in March. What is it like? Is it difficult?
MI: Nowadays I go to work, afternoon training then night training, that is my lifestyle now. Little by little I am getting more and more used to my job. I have gotten a grasp of my life's rhythm so it's ok.
CJ: What do you think of your opponent? She uses Facebook and Twitter a lot. What do you think of self-promotion? Is it important?
MI: I've seen a video of her fights, my first impression and feeling is that she is a very strong fighter. she has punching power and isn't the kind of fighter you face unprepared. I am thinking about doing some self-promotion from now on. However, I have to have a good fight, so I am going to go for that.
CJ: When it comes to training, how do you train? Have you been using your elbows in training? Your opponent has shown some strong cardio, how is your cardio? Can you do 3 5 minute rounds?
MI: I have started my training for Invicta. Of course I have been including elbows in my training. We are practicing everything from standing offense and defense to ground offense and defense. In relation to my stamina, I have been steadily taking charge of it in practice, it will not be a problem!!
CJ: Concerning your foreign debut, are you nervous at all? Is there anything you want to do in America? Just so you know Kansas is famous for their bbq.
MI: I am very nervous (laughing). I feel like there is a lot of things that I will be doing for the first time, I feel like my life's rhythm is going to collapse and I feel like my conditioning will get worse during the fight…thanks to various people's support I am able to fight so I appreciate that a lot. Because I want to get good results in the fight, I want to try as hard as I can ★ I don't know what there is but I do want to eat something delicious after the weigh-ins. (laughing)
CJ: What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
MI: In my free time I go to Karaoke with my friends ♪I don't really have a lot of time to hang out with my friends so I am constantly thinking about how I want to go to Karaoke! I appreciate music a lot, so I also like listening to music ★.
CJ: Recently, women's martial arts has gotten popular in the States. Is there a foreign fighter that you like? Is there a women's mixed martial artist that you like?
MI: The fighter that I aspire to be like is Megumi Fujii. I think that she is really cool and awe-inspiring.
CJ: Hamasaki is going to be fighting at the same event. How do you think her fight with Carla is going to go? Who is going to be your second?
MI: I am really excited for their fight. I want Hamasaki to win!! I really want us to win and come back to Japan together. My second is going to be my coach, Yamaguchi.
Mizuki and Ayaka
CJ: Hamasaki stated that of her opponents, she thought that you were the toughest. What do you think about that? What do you think about fight with her? After your fight with her, how have you improved?
MI: Hearing that makes me happy. During that time, I didn't know that I was going to be Hamasaki's opponent…I was thrown to the ground almost immediately and wasn't able to do anything, but I was able to see what makes a champion different. I've gotten better at being able to keep the fight standing and improved my striking.
CJ: With regards to kickboxing, how do you feel about a match against Erika Kamimura or Rena?
MI: I would like to fight and see a match between Kamimura or Rena but we are in a different weight-division…
CJ: Jewels has a lot of strong fighters in your division. Are there any fights you want? ("V.V" Mei, Fujino, Nagano)
MI: I think that I should fight whoever there is, I want to fight various kinds of people!
CJ: There are a lot of strong and young fighters at Karetodo Hakushinka. What kind of gym is it?
MI: Right now I am the only pro, next there will be some kids that are similar to me. It is the kind of place where one doesn't forget to respect your elders and to take care of your juniors, it is a prominent dojo.
CJ: The promotion that you fought for, JEWELS, has become a part of DEEP. What are your thoughts on that?
MI: Since I've become a Pro, that is where I began MMA career so it makes me a little sad. When I won my first match there, it made me extremely happy❤ But now there is a new opportunity and I wanna try my best from the beginning (of this opportunity)★ I am going to keep on winning and keep on going with all of my power (｀Д´乂)
CJ: Is there anything that you want to say to your Japanese fans? Anything to say to the American WMMA fans?
MI: I thought that fighting in America wasn't going to happen anytime soon. When we started discussing this fight, it made me really happy. Since the fight was decided, I have been going forward with all of my might so I can beat my opponent!! I am going to try as hard as I can go get good results for those who support me in Japan! I want to put on a good fight so that I can impress the American people, I want to win and come home. Please continue to support me!!
I would like to thank Mizuki for taking time for the interview. We would also like to thank Lady G0! for his wonderful pictures
Courtesy of LADY GO!
Emi Fujino Interview 5/13/13
CJ: In your last fight, you fought Ayaka Hamasaki. Even though you lost, it was a very entertaining fight. Can you talk about the fight, what did you think about it?
EF: The fight was a lot of fun. In that fight, I did what I was able to but there was still a lot of stuff I need to improve on, so I am going to get stronger.
Fujino charges Hamasaki
V (left) and Fujino (right) at Roppongi Martial Arts
Brenda Gonzales Interview 5/14/13
Emi Fujino Interview 5/13/13
This weekend's Pancrase card will be showcasing two of Japan's top female talents. One of those talents is Emi Fujino (11-6). While having never competed outside of Japan, Fujino has faced off against a who's who of fighters in both MMA and Kickboxing. Coming off a loss to Jewels Champion Ayaka Hamasaki last December, in a competitive bout that won fight of the night, Fujino looks to rebound with a victory over her American opponent, Amber Brown. Emi has expressed her desire to fight abroad and a win over Brown will put her one step closer. I had the opportunity to interview Emi, so sit back and enjoy.
EF: The fight was a lot of fun. In that fight, I did what I was able to but there was still a lot of stuff I need to improve on, so I am going to get stronger.
Fujino charges Hamasaki
CJ: In your last fight with Hamasaki, your cardio and punches looked really good. Can you talk about your training? You train with "V.V" Mei a lot, can you talk about that?
EF: I didn't change up my training, but a little bit before my Jewels fight, I had a kickboxing match, so I had been training my strikes a lot.
CJ: With regards to the strong female fighters in Japan, it seems like their are two teams. Those that train with AACC and those that train with you. What do you think? Am I mistaken?
EF: I don't know about that but, there are a lot of women at AACC, they have a lot of strong fighters so I am jealous. There aren't that many female fighters around so I train with V a lot. If there is anyone that wants to train with me, I really want to do it.
V (left) and Fujino (right) at Roppongi Martial Arts
CJ: What will a win do for your career?
EJ: She has only fought 2 fights, since my career is so much longer I cannot lose.
CJ: In July, some Jewels fighters will be fighting for Invicta. Do you want to fight for Invicta? There are a lot of fighter in your division, is there anyone you want to fight?
EF: I want to fight for Invicta. If I can fight for them, I will fight anybody.
CJ: Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
EF: I like to read, go shopping and go out to eat with my friends.
CJ: Mizuki and Ayaka will be fighting in July. Who do you think will win their bouts?
EF: I don't know who is going to win, but I am excited to see how well the Japanese fighters in my division can fight.
CJ: Is there anything that you want to show in your next match?
EF: My punches are a lot stronger than before, I want to show that.
CJ: Rin Nakai will also be fighting at the event. Have you seen her videos, if so what do you think? When it comes to MMA, is self-promotion important?
EF: I have seen them. I couldn't do that so I think it is amazing. Self-promotion is important. However, if you do it too much you may not remember what is most important.
CJ: Is there anything you want to say to the fans?
EF: It is going to be an interesting fight. I am going to prove my strength.
I would like to thank Emi for taking the time to answer our questions!
Be sure to watch her Pancrase debut this weekend on USTREAM
Brenda Gonzales Interview 5/14/13
It seems that this weekend's Pancrase card is full of promotional debuts. In one of those debuts, professional boxer and MMA fighter Brenda Gonzales (4-0) looks to shake up the Japanese MMA scene. Brenda will be facing off against Pancrase's female champion, Rin Nakai (13-0-1). While the fight will not be for the title, a win over Nakai will not only put Gonzales on the map in Japan, it will catch the attention of women's MMA fans all over the world. Due to her success inside the ring and her success in promoting herself, many fans know about Nakai. With the event available outside of Japan on USTREAM, this is without a doubt the biggest MMA fight of Brenda'c career. I had the opportunity to interview "Boom Boom", so sit back and enjoy!
BG: My names Brenda Gonzales I'm 31. Born and raised in the small town of Moriarty, New Mexico. I've been an athlete since I was 5 years old playing basketball, volleyball, baseball, and track. I always had an interest in martial arts but never knew where to go train. I started dating UFC fighter Tim Means 4 years ago who was already training at FitNhb, I took a class and feel in love with it. From that day I never left. I knew I always wanted to be a professional athlete growing up, but never thought I'd be a fighter.
CJ: Can you describe your style as a fighter? Which of your 4 fights best shows your style and skill set?
BG: I love all styles of mma. I feel comfortable standing or hitting the ground. I feel that in my 4th fight against Elsie Zwicker I got to unleash.
Brenda's Punching Power on Display
CJ: At 4-0, you are at the beginning of your career. What are your career goals? What do you want to accomplish?
BG: My career goals is to make a comfortable living doing what I love. I would love to add a few more belts to the wall.
CJ: Your next fight is against Pancrase fighter, Rin Nakai. Not only will this fight be your first fight outside of the States, you will be fighting heavier than you normally do, with different rules and in a ring instead of a cage. Can you talk about how you plan to deal with these differences? How have you modified your training?
BG: I am very excited for this challenge. I am also a professional boxer so I know how to break down the disciplines. No elbows might be a little tricky but we have adjusted. My coaches modify every fight for me, we are always prepared.
Brown and Gonzales are Ready
CJ: Rin Nakai has become somewhat notorious in the U.S. for her "training videos". What are your thoughts on these videos? On a broader note, what do you think about fighters like Hyatt and Rousey who excel at self-promotion? Do you think self-promotion is necessary now?
BG: I was a little surprised at some videos at first, but to each is own. Yes I believe self-promotion is important, especially to get help with sponsors. I've done alot the last couple years.
CJ: Will this be your first time to Japan? Is there anything that you want to do there outside of the fight?
BG: Yes this well be my first time to Japan. Its always been at the top of my list of places I would love to check out. I just hope to be able to explore some.
CJ: Do you have any hobbies? What do you do outside of fighting?
BG: I enjoy playing softball, spending time with my family, camping, fishing, just about anything. We don't have too much time out of fighting with two fighters in the house. We're always preparing for battle.
CJ: Is there anything that you want to say? A message for the fans?
BG: I would love to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the years. I have been blessed! My sponsors have been awesome! I'm exited my fans will be able to watch through USTREAM. I'm ready to go fight my best!!
I would like to thank Brenda for taking the time to answer our questions.
Be sure to watch her fight this weekend on USTREAM
Amber Brown Interview 5/13/13
This weekend, there will be two high-level women's MMA matches going on in Pancrase. In one of those matches, a relatively unknown American, Amber "The Bully" Brown (2-0) will face off against Japanese veteran Emi Fujino (11-6). As far as veterans go, Emi Fujino has faced off against some of the best in her division and has never been finished. A victory over Fujino would definitely put Brown on the map and would certainly be her biggest win to date. As you may recall, Fujino was originally slated to face off against Monica Lovato. An injury forced Lovato from the bout so fellow teammate Brown stepped up to the plate. In preparation for the bouts this weekend, I have interviewed all four of the women involved. So without further adieu, sit back and enjoy our interview with The Bully.
AB: I am Amber "The Bully" Brown, 24 years of age, and born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. First walked into FIT-NHB back in 2009 after the birth of my daughter. I just wanted to get in shape & be healthy. Every other month FIT would have amateur boxing/kickboxing matches, so I started to get an itch to get on there and fight. Had my first fight(boxing) in September 2010. Went on being 4-0 as an amateur boxer. It ended up being difficult to find opponents so we decided to turn professional. My pro debut was February 2012, and I came up short with a decision loss. After that, I had my eyes set on MMA. I absolutely fell in love with it! I love everything about it! I trained hard until November 2012, where I had my pro Mma debut. Went home with a unanimous decision win. Found myself right back in the gym ready to get prepared for the next one. My next fight would take place in January 2013, where I got a first round TKO. Again, right back in the gym preparing for the next battle, and now here we are about to leave for Japan!
CJ: Can you talk about your fight style? What should fans look for in your fights?
AB: My background is boxing, but I am very comfortable wherever the fight happens to go. I want to be very well rounded, so I train everything.
CJ: Your husband is also a Martial Artist, what is that like? Can you talk about it?
AB: My husband is a boxing trainer at Fit. We are always together. We eat, sleep, and train everyday. He is such a big help and such great motivation, I wouldn't be where I at today if I didn't have him by my side!
CJ: In your upcoming fight, you will be fighting for Pancrase. How do you feel going into your first international fight? Pancrase is one of the older MMA promotions, what does it feel like fighting for them?
AB: I feel so very honored and excited to fight for one of the oldest, well known promotions, Pancrase. It is such an honor, and I'm so thankful for this opportunity.
CJ: Your opponent, Emi Fujino, will be your highest profile opponent to date. Can you talk about what this fight means for you? How do you see a fight between you two playing out? What would a win over Fujino do for your career?
AB: Emi Fujino is by far my toughest, highest profile fight to date. She is very strong, but I am so ready to test my skills and see where I am at, and how I can handle a fight this big. A win would be huge, and I hope to get Invicta's attention. Just expect it to be a WAR!!
CJ: Your currently 2-0, can you talk about your career aspirations. Do you see yourself fighting for Pancrase or would you like to fight for organizations in the U.S like Invicta FC?
AB: I definitely want to be the very best, so I have to fight the best. Pancrase has that and so does Invicta. I hope to get into Invicta, but would love to have another chance to come fight for Pancrase, and hope they have me back!
CJ: You fight at 115 lbs. That division is full of talented fighters right now. Is there anyone that you think you match up well against or any fight you want?
AB: My past two fights were at 110. We are shooting for 105 ultimately. My fight w/ Emi will be at 115 so I will be going up a little in weight. I just want to be the best, so I want to keep training and stay ready for whoever they stick in front of me.
CJ: Do you have any hobbies, what do you do in your free time? Are you excited to go to Japan? Is there anything you want to do there? Any plans to stop by some gyms there?
AB: I love being with my family. My daughter and husband are my world, besides training. I am just always with them or in the gym! I eat, sleep, and sweat.
CJ: Is there anything you want to say? A message for the fans? Thanks a lot!
AB: I want to thank Damage Control Mouthguards, Max Muscle Rio Rancho, and my coaches and brothers and sisters at FIT-NHB. I also want to thank Emi Fujino for taking the fight, a huge thanks to Pancrase for this amazing opportunity. And to the fans, I thank each and every one of you for your support, you are all amazing, and get ready for a war!!!!!!
I would like to thank Amber for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to watch her fight this weekend, live on USTREAM.
Toby Imada Interview 5/10/13
With today's breed of fighters, it is not often that you see a fighter with over 50 professional fights. Toby Imada (30-18) is one of those rare MMA fighters. He has been fighting professionally since 1998 and has fought some of the best the world has to offer. To many Toby came into the spotlight in 2009, as part of the inaugural Bellator tournament. To others Toby came into the spotlight in 2010 when he defeated Andy Souwer (147-14) at the S-Cup in Japan. Toby has excited the Japanese and American fans with his unique grappling and aggressive style. So it is with great pleasure that we got to interview him and we hope you enjoy!
CJ: You have been involved in Martial Arts for a long time, can you talk about how you started? What was it like being involved with the sport of MMA before it was mainstream? How has the sport changed the most, in your opinion?TI: It all started with Judo training. That's where I had encountered wrestlers and jujitsu practitioners. Given my competitive nature, I felt like I needed to cross train and learn their techniques to eliminate whatever advantages they had. My training and success in competition caught the attention of promoters. So when I was invited to compete in NHB matches, I was tentative, but tried it anyway. I never entered MMA to be a fighter. I was always a martial artist with a competitive spirit. Training was a way of life, or a hobby if you prefer. i would attend school, work, and train regularly. and when the opportunity came around I would compete, then go right back to my routine. It was a life style. The sport has evolved to become more than martial arts. It has become something where people prepare otherwise known as "camp". Money, glamour, fame, even politics have become such a part of it all.
CJ: You have fought for a variety of organizations. What is it like being a journeyman/ronin? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Are there any organizations that you have been involved with that stick out in your memory?
TI: It feels like everyone hopes for me to lose and the the other guy to win. I kind of feel like I'm not wanted by anyone...hahaha but so what. I dont do this for acceptance. I do it for the previous reason. One advantage to that, which may be the only one, is that I get to go where ever I like. The down side to all that. I must always search for matches. Usually on my own. Bellator will always be memorable. However, to this date, I feel ShootBoxing has been the best to me. Every time I have been scheduled a fight, they have come through with everything they have promised, without having to remind them or fight over anything, and gone beyond.
CJ: While you have fought a lot of fights, you are probably most famous for your involvement in 2 tournaments. The Bellator Season 1 tournament and the Shoot Boxing S-cup in 2010. Do you prefer fighting in tournaments or doing individual fights? Can you talk about what it is like fighting in a tournament?
TI: I like both. Individual fights take pressure away from having to worry about the next match. You also know exactly who you will be facing, given nothing happens and the is a last minute substitution.. I also like the seriousness of tournaments. Having to display a skill level where you can go into and leave a fight taking least amount of damage as possible. There is a greater reward winning several fights as opposed to just one.
CJ: Speaking of your participation in the 2010 S-Cup, can you talk about how you got on Shoot Boxing's radar? Did you pursue them or did they pursue you? What was your initial reaction?
TI: Getting into Scup was unintentional, if you can believe that. I had just come off of a fight and before i could get home I had been contacted by a friend asking if i would like to participate. I knew nothing of the organization. They thought I would be perfect for the rules. Apparently SB lost a fighter. Pressed for time and desperately needed to get the slot filled, somehow my name was brought up. I can imagine someone saying, "I bet Toby would take the fight.." I did. Im pleased with my wild decision.
CJ: Going into that tournament, you knew that some of the world's best kick boxers and muay thai fighters were also entering the tournament. Names like Andy Souwer and Buakaw carry a lot of weight. How did it feel going into that tournament? Did you feel like you were representing MMA? TI: Honestly, I hadn't any idea who these people were or knew hardly anything about hem. Mind you I wasn't completely sure what the ShootBoxing rules were either. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. My main focus was to not let anyone walk right through me.
Souwer, Bovy, Umeno, Imada, Shishido, Buakaw, Saraiva, van Opstal
CJ: Can you talk about what it was like beating Andy Souwer, the multiple S-Cup Champion, in your first S-cup? What was your strategy? Is it one of the biggest wins of your career?
TI: My strategy was to be in his face and take every opportunity possible. Initially I tried to hit him from as any different angles as possible. I was very unorthodox, which may really have played a part in throwing him off. Inside fighting, causing a tie up then reacting with throws. What can I say, but smile.
CJ: You stated in a previous interview that your fight with Buakaw was the worst fight you've ever been in. Do you think the damage you took from earlier fights affected the fight? Would you be open to a re-match?
TI: Previous damage totally played a part in that. I was tired and feeling sore! I don't know if anyone noticed, but I was already tired in round 3 versus Andy. Buakaw? Oh hell yes I would rematch.
CJ: How was the experience as a whole? Is there anything you would like to say about it? Any good stories?
TI: The entire experience was great. I cant imagine how it could have been any better. Every detail was memorable enough. Hanging out with Enson and being shown around. Not very many people at all know what that is like. blush...
CJ: Your tendency to go for throws and submissions mixed with your toughness have made you a fan favorite in Japan. What is that like? How are Japanese fans different from fans in the States?
TI: Really?! I didn't know all. I thought it was my last name hahaha. Ok, well, I feel more of their compliments are genuine. I didn't feel like they were saying what they thought i wanted to hear. I am very honored an pleased to be appreciated by such a reserved culture
CJ: Going into your fight with Satoru Suzuki, you were coming off of consecutive losses. How did you feel going into that fight, did you feel like you were fighting for your future in Shoot Boxing? During that fight, it seems like Suzuki escaped submissions and throws by collapsing to the canvas. Is this a problem in Shoot Boxing? What was your strategy going into the fight and how did it feel when you won?
TI: I was displeased with my previous performances. I got hit with a stomach infection for my fight with Andy which prevented me to recover from the weigh cut adequately. Also, I hadn't as much time i had hoped for to prepare for such an opponent. It was all a learning process for me. I had to learn how to handle the travel, timing for training, and recovery. I had gathered my previous knowledge to prepare the best I could. Also, stepping up my training regimen. Opponents falling to the ground and grabbing on to the ropes made it a lot more difficult as well as frustrating. So I started working on counters for when they would, and was kind of hoping that they would. Falling to the ground is a problem in SB, but I now have a better understanding of the sport and the rules. SB has modified the rules slightly, to where they have become less tolerant and faster to penalize rope grabbing and falling to the ground in attempt to escape submissions, as seen when Suzuki attempted to fall to the ground when I had applied a standing guillotine.
Imada sinks in the choke
CJ: Can you talk about some of the friendships you have developed over there? Have you ever trained with any of the fighters over there?
TI: Seems I have developed a a friendship with several individuals at Caesar Gym as well as a few others. Enough to encourage me further study Japanese language. They've been very welcoming. Their mannerism and character has left me spellbound. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the honor to train with any. I hope to someday very soon. I would hold a seminar as a gesture of my gratitude for allowing me to train with them.
CJ: Because of your fights with Shoot Boxing, you are known amongst Japanese fighting fans. Have you received any offers to fight for an MMA organization in Japan? Would you like to fight for Pancrase, Shooto, DEEP or even One FC someday?
TI: Regrettably, I have not had any offers lately. I would be more than honored to compete in any of those organizations. As any who have witnessed, my style is anything other than boring.
CJ: I previously mentioned your participation in Bellator's 1st season. Can you talk about that? It was during that season that your name became well known, due to your submission of the year over Jorge Masvidal. How did that effect your career? Have you and Bellator gone your separate ways now?
TI: At the time, I didn't think the submission is would cause such a stir. I was excited to have come out victorious. Not sure if the submission is what brought me back or if it were my performances. I am no longer signed with Bellator. Don't really know what happened there. My management at that time did something and just left me like that.
CJ: Can you talk about your future? Do you have any fights lined up?
TI: My future, well i am definitely not staying young. Just like anyone else, my time in the sport is very limited. I have relocated and have a new gym. Taking a little time to train and take complete control of myself and training. Not to sound bitter, but things got very unstable for me at my previous location. Now I would be starting from scratch, but this time Ive brought all my knowledge and experience somewhere it can be put to really really good use.
CJ: Shoot Boxing has had a couple of events this year, have they contacted you? Would you like to participate in this years S-Cup?
TI: I would absolutely participate in every possible SB match. I feel with SB I can act, speak, and display who i am most openly without someone telling me how, when, or what it is they want me to do. The Scup tournament is bi-yearly, so there would be one until next year. My answer, then, would still be ABSOLUTELY, if/when they contact me.
CJ: In your opinion, what makes a fighter?
TI: In my opinion a fighter is someone with a particular spirit. Someone that can dig deep within them-self despite failure, anguish and struggle, will not give up. Call us stubborn. Determined.
CJ: Is there anything that you want to say? To your Japanese fans? To your American Fans?
TI: Toby is still in good condition. training, healing, ever improving. Thank you for all the support, cant wait to return and put on a great show for the fans.
Felice Herrig Interview 5/3/13
If you follow State-side WMMA, then you know Felice "Little Bulldog" Herrig (9-4). Formerly a successful kickboxer, Herrig made her professional MMA debut in 2009. Known for her weigh-ins and aggressive style, she has now racked up 4 wins since her last loss. In addition to her wins she has shown improvements and looks to be becoming a more well-rounded fighter. Coming off of a win in March over Heather Clark, I got the chance to interview Felice. Enjoy;
FH: Transitioning to MMA as a kick boxer was difficult because I was already a professional kick boxer and had to transition into mma and fight as a professional right from the get go. I also was just coming off of the show " Fight Girls" and the World Combat league with lots of tv exposure so I couldn't fly under the radar. Being a champion kickboxer and muay thai fighter I couldn't get match ups with girls who were also strikers transitioning into mma. I had to fight girls who were grapplers and I had absolutely no form of grappling training at all. For a long time all the girls ever wanted to do was hug me and pin me against the cage and stall out the fight. I was a little caught off guard because I'm a fighter through and through and was stunned by how many girls were satisfied by stalling out a fight without actually fighting or throwing a punch. I knew I had to get good at grappling. Once I found a home at team Curran after searching for a home gym where I could evolve all my focus went into my grappling.
CJ: Can you describe your fight style? If someone hasn't seen you fight before, which fight of yours would you want them to watch?
FH: I'm aggressive. I don't back down no matter what . I just have an in your face kind of style. Hence the ring name " : Bulldog"
CJ: Does your contract with Bellator keep you from fighting for other organizations in other countries? In Japan, there are a lot of good 115lbers. Would you like to fight in Japan sometime? FH: Right now i'm exclusive to Bellator. I have fought in other countries , including Japan and I would much rather fight in country and not have to deal with that huge time gap, which can ultimately affect your weight cut and performance.
CJ: You seem to have mastered the art of self-promotion. Fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Bec Hyatt have used social media to self-promote themselves as well. Can you talk about the importance of self-promotion? What effect has it had on your career so far?
FH: I have always seen the benefit of self promotion since I started fighting. You can't depend on someone else to get your name out there for you. Especially when until now as the sport has grown there really hasnt been a lot of main stream coverage on women fighters. And even when there is its all of the bigger weight classes. So for me I have tried to get my name out there as much as I could and social media is a great way to do that. When no one is promoting you it's your job to do it yourself. I think that because I have worked on this aspect for so long it has brought me great opportunities and got my name out there without even being a 135 or 145 fighter, which is where all the attention has been. I have an outgoing personality so It really all just comes easy for me.
CJ: You are known primarily as a striker, but in your last couple of fights you have shown more and more of your grappling. Can you talk about your improved grappling? Has training with Carla Esparza helped you improve your wrestling? How often do you two train together?
FH: Training with carla has definitely helped me. It's not every day you get to work with a top ranked girl in your division. So i'm thankful I actually have her to work with. We get together for training a few times a year and have been in eachothers corner for both of our last fights. But I would not say thats my main reason for improved grappling. It has helped me but I can't take away from my gym I train at everyday which is team Curran that has really improved my grappling on a more consistent level and all the countless grappling tournaments i've competed in and all the mat time. Carla has showed me a few tricks which are secret little tricks I can't reveal. But I would actually say what has helped me the most with Carla is the moral support. She has become one of my best friends and it's so nice as a female fighter to have another top level female fighter to be able to talk to about a lot of the struggles female fighters go through in general mentally and physically. She offers a lot of moral support for me and has all and all just been a true, genuine friend.
CJ: You fought last March, in a heated fight. Can you talk about the fight? Does the smack talking before a fight affect you at all during a fight? When do you want to fight next? Is there anyone that you want to fight?
FH: All of my matches now seem to be heated. Every girl I fight seems to have a problem with me even though i've never met them or done anything to them personally. I just let them talk trash about me and I sit back. I don't need to get into a war of words or do anything thats going to mess with my mind mentally before a fight. It only affects you if you let it. I am not the type of fighter who chooses to talk trash about my opponent. I like to keep a level of class and respect and really like to keep the martial spirit. To me its all just negative, wasted energy. My opponent ran her mouth non-stop and called me trashy only to show up to weigh ins in trashy stripper heels and bathing suit. I had a lot of pent up aggression. I let it out in the cage and beat her and after the fight I screamed in her face. I know it wasn't the right thing to do but sportsmanship was the last thing on my mind after the lack of sportsmanship she had for me leading up to the fight. Trash talk is one thing but taking personal jabs about someone and trying to make it personal is another thing.
CJ: Can you talk about what it is like being one of Bellator's most recognizable fighters? Do you feel like the face of WMMA in Bellator?
FH: I don't really feel like the face of WMMA for Bellator. I don't really feel like I even get promoted to be honest. When I signed with Bellator I was told that the intent was to market me and put me out there as one of the main faces for WMMA for their promotion, but I don't feel that at all. My last fight with them wasn't on the main card, in fact it was the first fight of the entire night! I know the fans wanted to see it and were bombarding them with tweets non-stop. My debut back to Bellator did make it onto MTV2 but only because they lost 2 of the main card fights. Despite the loss of 2 main card fights and going up against a UFC the same night, I was happy to hear that show drew the second highest ratings of the season. We'll see how things go next season, I hope to continue to put on good shows for my fans and hopefully help put WMMA on the map for Bellator.
CJ: What do you like to do outside of fighting? Do you have any hobbies?
FH: I do a lot outside of the actual fighting with my sponsors and with traveling. I can't hide who I am. Fighting is a huge part of my life and has been for a long time now. Almost everything I do in some way has something to do with fighting. Whether its photo shoots for sponsors, or designing my own custom fight outfits or traveling and going to different fight events and even just keeping up with my social media. It all keeps me very busy but is also very fun and I get to experience a lot with my job.
CJ: You have been fighting in MMA professionally since 2009, can you talk about how MMA has changed? How has WMMA changed specifically?
FH: MMA is the fastest growing sport. The sport is growing so much that it was hard finding good training and training partners or finding fights and dealing with it all. So not as many women stayed consistent with mma and fighting. The ones who did have become the pioneers and helped pave the way. But now there are mma gyms all over and a bigger pool of women and fight promotions waiting to book women. And now with Invicta creating an entire organization for women it's easier for everyone to stay busy and make a living in the sport. There for the competition has really grown and will continue to. I'm ranked #5 and as the sport grows I have to work harder and harder to keep my spot and move up in the ranks.
CJ: You train often with Carla Esparza, how do you think her fight with Hamasaki is going to turn out?
FH: I think Hamasaki is a very good fighter. She's very good on the ground and with her submissions. But carla is a non-stop go go go wrestler. She doesn't give you any space to move or create space. With Hamasaki being a submission fighter if carla fights the way she normally does and doesn't give her the space to get anything off she will win the fight. Carla is seriously rough and has some great ground and pound. In my opinion she's not just the best wrestler in the strawweight division i think she's the best wrestler in WMMA. Her wrestling style really translates well into mma. Ok ok I seem really biased here now.. And In a way I am. I have every bit of confidence in Carla.
CJ: Do you have any comments? Is there anything that you want to say to the fans?
FH: I am constantly bombarded with fan mail on my page asking where they can send fan mail to me. I have all my fan mail sent to my gym. If you want to send something for me to sign and send back please make sure you include a self addressed envelope with return postage to Team Curran Attn: Felice Herrig 110 W woodstock st. Crystal Lake , Il 60014 oh and follow me on twitter @feliceherrig and a big thanks to all my sponsors Alienware, Battleware, Allmax Nutrition, SoldierFit ExtremeFit, AmericanaMMA and Dom Fight gear. And my management SuckerpunchEnt and team and coaches at Team Curran ;)
Undefeated Japanese Star, Rin Nakai (13-0-1) steps back into the ring next month. She will be facing off against a fellow undefeated fighter in Brenda Gonzalez (4-0). A successful gymnast and Judoka as a child, Nakai has become a staple of Pancrase and won their inaugural Queen of Pancrase Title last December. Though undefeated, Nakai's career hasn't been without it's ups and downs. Interestingly, in both of her fights with Danielle West (4-5-1) some form of controversy followed. Following her draw with West in 2011, fans sent her harassing letters and it got to a point where the police had to get involved. This was a tough time for Nakai. In her 2nd fight with West, West came in over weight. Unable to make weight in a Title Match, rules were changed and West felt like she had been wronged. Well, it is safe to say that Nakai is looking to put all of this behind her and move on with her career. I had the opportunity to interview her, so sit back and enjoy:
CJ: We are looking forward to your fight on 5/19. Are you going to train anything special? Where and who did you train with? We heard that when you came to Tokyo you trained with Roxanne?
RN: In relation to this fight, I am not doing any special training, I am just practicing as usual. Roxanne is very strong, I think that she is a very intellectual fighter.
CJ: You haven't lost yet. Is there any pressure?
RN: There is. There is a lot of pressure.
CJ: In your previous fight, West got mad about the rule change. What did you think of all of this?
RN: It is unfortunate that she couldn't make weight.
CJ: You do a lot of promotion. For example, you were a round girl and you do your videos. What kind of reaction do you get?
RN: I want to make the fans happy. I get words of praise/admiration from a lot of people, so it makes me happy too.
Rin doing some self-promotion as a round girl
CJ: Before a fight when you are entering the ring, before the bell, what kind of things do you think about?
RN: I don't think about anything, I want to have neutralness.
CJ: When you aren't fighting or training what do you do? Do you have any hobbies?
RN: I like shopping. I always go to Don Quixote ( a fun retail shop that has everything), I see a lot of things, people and the town.
Rin at Don Quixote
CJ: Are you a fan of combat sports? Are there any other fighters that you like or whose fights you like to watch? Also, a lot of American's haven't seen your fights, what fight would you recommend?
RN: Well, there is no fighter like my ideal fighter, my ideal fighter excels with their skills, physical being and mental level, all in perfect balance. There are a lot of strong fighters and there are also a lot of fighters inclined towards being technical.
When it comes to watching, I watch anything. My T.V is always set to Sky's speciality channel Samurai TV. That's what I watch. Of course I watch MMA, I watch a lot of any kind of combat sport.
To a certain degree, I don't have a recommendation because all of my fights have the same feeling, but previously I had two matches in a cage with Mizuho Sato. Of those, when I watch my 2/10/10 fight with Sato, I get attached to my old self, incomplete, still not familiar with it, unrefined, fighting desperately while exhausted, I was fresh and innocent (lol) when I can watch myself, it is good and interesting because its like I can return to "innocence"
CJ: Right now, in the US, WMMA is becoming very popular. There is the UFC and Invicta FC, both of which have your weight division. If you could fight one of them (in Pancrase) who would you want to fight? (For example, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Shayna Bazler)
RN: The opponents named above, I must be sure not to reveal as much as possible. I mustn't be impolite to my opponents by blurting out stupid things, in my case I would put together the fight as soon as an offer came (lol)
CJ: Recently, Pancrase is putting together various WMMA fights. How is WMMA in Japan right now?
RN: Japanese MMA is at a low point for both the men and the women. Inside of that (Japanese MMA) is Pancrase, which is elevating so there is the light of hope.
The Queen of Pancrase
CJ: What has changed since you started since you started MMA?
RN: Around the time I started compared to now, I think that my technique and power have improved. It is unfortunate that the population of female fighters hasn't increased. Most gyms are primarily male, so I believe that there aren't environments for women to work or practice. Of course, organization and gym representatives, martial artists and every one involved, need to appreciate women and treat women with care, if they do this it'll make me happy. In Society, women have gained privilege/rights but in MMA women are weak. Since half of mankind is women, and there are female fighters and female fans, it would be a good thing to bring in more women.♡
CJ: Thank you for the interview. We wish you the best in your next fight. Do you have anything that you would like to say to your fans?
RN: I'd like to thank my fans for their support. Please continue to support MMA, Pancrase and Women's MMA. m(_ _)m
I would like to thank Rin and Pancrase for the interview. We would also like to wish her the best of luck in her next fight.
You can watch the fight, online on USTREAM
Little Tiger Interview 4/12/13
One of Japan's premier Kickboxers will step into the ring for the 2nd time in 2 months this weekend. On April 14th, Little Tiger will face off against the Italian, Soisci Porchetta. Ever since her emergence onto the Japanese Kickboxing scene, Little Tiger has been one of the more interesting fighters to follow. After being unsatisfied for years working as a dental assistant, through a chance encounter, she fell in love with Kickboxing. That is only the beginning of her interesting journey, for she was to be trained by one of the most famous athletes in all of Japan. To many outside of Japan, you will not know Satoru Sayama, the Tiger Mask. In Japan, he is one of the more famous wrestlers in the country and is a house hold name. Having learned Bushido (fighting spirit) from him and having his name bestowed upon her, Little Tiger has done her best to reflect this in her fights. Having stepped into the ring to face some of Japan's toughest fighters, she always leaves it all in the ring and has never brought dishonor to her name.
On April 14th, Little Tiger faces off against Soisci Porchetta. They are both champions. Little Tiger has won 4 Championships and Soisci Porchetta has won 2. Just in case you were thinking of flying over to watch these two champions duke it out, don't, it's all sold out and has been for weeks. I had the opportunity to interview Little Tiger between fights, so sit back and enjoy. Without further adieu,
CJ: Thank you for the interview. You studied from Sayama-Sensei, what was that like? How did you meet him? How did it feel when he gave you his name?
LT: Sayama Sensei, I got to know him when he came to my father's shop. Sayama-Sensei often came with his sempai Fujiwara-Sensei. One time, when Sayama-Sensei came alone, we talked about how I had started kickboxing, he said that he would teach me and to come to his gym so that is how I started going to Sayama's gym. He taught me the basics in a way that was really easy to understand. The basics are the most difficult.
When I first started using the name, I didn't realize how serious it was, but after I got to know Sayama-Sensei I realized how important of a thing it was.
Now I am working hard to not bring shame to the name. And another thing Sayama-Sensei taught me was the Bushido Spirit.
Little Tiger and Tiger Mask
CJ: Do you prefer Kickboxing or Muay Thai? Recently, you've been fighting and training in Thailand, how is that going? Is there a difference between Thai and Japanese gyms?
LT: I like Muay Thai. Since I fight in Thailand a lot, it is practical studying, it is really nice that I can have this experience. I don't only fight in Thailand, I can train my mind and I can also study the culture of the Thai people, which is a really good experience.
CJ: Thank you. Right now in Japan and Asia there are a lot of strong fighters. For example Erika Kamimura, Emi Fujino, Rena, Mio, Ham Seo Hee and Mizuki. Amongst these fighters is there a fight that you would like? Or would you like another fight?
LT: I think a fight with any of them would be interesting.
CJ: Is there a fight that you want?
LT: I want to fight fighters with excellent techniques like the Thai's.
CJ: How do you feel before and during a fight?
LT: Before a fight, I want to hurry up and fight, I'm excited. During a fight, I am excited.
CJ: When you aren't preparing for a fight or training, do you have a hobby?
LT: When I'm not training, I like to drive and I like playing with my dogs.
Ako and Koa
CJ: Soon you will have a fight in Japan. When you are in Japan who/where do you practice? In this next fight, is there a technique that you want to use? You had a fight last month and have one this month. How often do you like to fight in a year?
LT: When I am in Japan, during the day time I practice at Weerasakreck and at night Fujiwara Gym. At my next fight, I want to fight in a way that will impact my fans and those who come to watch. I want them to say "I want to see Tiger fight"!
CJ: You had a fight last month and have one this month. How often do you like to fight in a year?
LT:This year I'd like to fight at a pace of a fight a month.
CJ: You really like Muay Thai. Is there a Muay Thai fighter that you like? Do you have a recommendation of your own fights?
LT: I am a South Paw, so I like South Paws.
CJ: Thank you very much! Do you have any comments or is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
LT: I'd like to express my true gratitude towards my fans who support me regardless if I'm in Japan or Thailand. The support that you give me gives me pride and because of that I will keep on doing my best, so please continue to support me.
I would like to thank Little Tiger for taking the time for the interview. We would also like to wish her the best of luck in her upcoming fight.
Little Tiger Highlight
Raquel Pa'aluhi Interview 4/8/13
July 28th, 2012, in one of the higher profile fights on Invicta FC's second show, Raquel Pa'aluhi stepped up on short notice to face off against Brazilian stand-out Amanda Nunes. The fight started out quickly with Pa'aluhi taking Nunes's back and nearly sinking in a choke. After transitioning to an armbar attempt, Raquel's back was taken and she was choked unconscious. Now nearly a year later the World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championships are just around the corner and one of Hawaii's top female fighters will be in attendance. Raquel Pa'aluhi, a gritty 2nd generation fighter, will be competing, having qualified at the Hawaiian Trials. Having already faced some of the best fighters in the Bantamweight Division, the 22 year old's decision to take some time away from MMA to concentrate on her grappling can only be seen as a good thing. Known for her striking, Raquel has had problems when facing off against strong grapplers. However, the combination of her young age, experience and desire to improve make her one of the top prospects in the Bantamweight Division. When she returns to MMA her improved grappling will not only make her dangerous on the ground, it will also allow her to open up more with her striking. I had the opportunity to interview her before she flew out to Abu Dhabi, so please enjoy!
CJ: First off, congratulations on the the victory! How did the event go? How did you train for it?
RP: THANK YOU! Initially I wasn't going to do the tournament but my Dad kind of bugged me and talked to my Professor about it so I agreed. I decided a month out from the tournament I wanted to do it so I had a decent amount of time to prepare. I was already training in the gi a lot so I just made sure to start speficially training for the tournament. I did a lot of rounds, started getting my conditioning up and worked on my wrestling a lot too. It wasn't any different than my usual training because I'm always training hard and fight ready but I just added more live stuff to what I was already doing. Jiujitsu is not my game so I just made sure to strengthen what I was already good at which was my wrestling and the basic moves I had at the time.
Raquel setting up an armbar
CJ: You are known as a talented striker. Can you talk about why you have been concentrating on BJJ? What was your motivation?
RP: If you look at my losses in MMA, It's all by submissions. It's not that I wasn't training my ground game at all, I just wan't training it enough. I started as a wrestler so I have 8 years of wrestling under my belt. I'm known for my striking and that came fairly easy to me. Jiujitsu was the last piece of the puzzle that needed to be developed and refined. After my last fight, my coach(who is my jiujitsu professor) and I sat down and made a plan. We decided to hold off on getting fights and just train jiujitsu for the next 6 months and then see what we wanted to do after that. It was a hard thing to do at first because I absolutely love to fight. I crave it, I need it in my life. But I had to trust him and believe in his plan. I've had opportunities come up with Bellator and locally to fly women in and it was extremely hard to turn them down but I knew that this was a necessary part of my journey as a martial artist. To be a better MMA fighter I needed to sacrifice this time and dedicate myself to becoming a better jiujitsu fighter.
CJ: Now you are excelling at BJJ but you are known primarily as a MMA fighter. Can you talk about why/how you got involved in Mixed Martial Arts? When you started did you know you wanted to be a professional fighter?
RP: My Dad was one of the first MMA fighers in Hawai'i and is known as one of the pioneers for MMA here. He fought in and won the first few eight man tournaments that were held here(Future Brawl and Super Brawl). I grew up around the scene and was always in the gym with my Dad. My siblings and I were pretty much gym rats! I wasn't the most athletic or coordinated child growing up but I did do karate and learned basic wrestling and grappling from my Dad. It wasn't until I was a sophomore that I wrestled in high school. I wrestled until my senior year and then a year in college. As a collegiate wrestler I placed 4th at the national tournament at an olympic weight(63 kilos). I was really motivated to go back the next year and continue to get better but financially it was hard for me to be away because I was doing it on my own and I was only on a partial scholarship. I came home from school and started training at my Dad's gym. After a few months my Dad sat down with me and kind of said, hey wrestling is done for you... you've always wanted to fight so you need to make a decision now. If you want to, we need to start training seriously and get you fights. A few months later I had my first ammy fight. I was immediately addicted.
Raquel sets up a triangle
CJ: Recently Women's MMA has exploded in popularity. Why do you think that is? How does it feel knowing the women you have fought against are now in the UFC in your division?
RP: Like anything that's new and exciting, it draws a lot of attention. We live in a generation where women aren't fragile and weak and don't want to be skinny, they want to be STRONG. It's a different world now and I think people enjoy seeing this. I'm glad that it's drawing a lot of attention because Dana is finally allowing us to fight in the UFC. This is something I have literally prayed for over the last four years. It doesn't bother me that the women I fought are in the UFC at all. I believe God's timing is the perfect timing and my time will come. I don't feel like these women completely ran through me. If you watch the fights it was tough fights and even close fights. I took these fights because I felt like I could get something out of it and I feel like I have. I feel like my time to be there will be very soon. I also feel like they being in the UFC says a lot about me as a fighter as well because I was able to compete with them.
CJ: Your fight with Amanda Nunes was one of the more exciting fights on that Invicta FC card. You almost choked her out in a fight that you took on extremely short notice. Can you talk about that experience?
RP: It was an amazing experience. Invicta is a great organization to fight in. Shannon and Janet and the rest of the team their are amazing. I got the call about 8 days prior to fight night and I took the fight without hesitation. I'm always in the gym training and I felt like this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I jumped the gun in the fight and that was my mistake. Amanda is a striker and the game plan was to let her come in and fight defensively. I felt like maybe she respected my striking and I didn't expect that because this was the only fight that she didn't come in first. She did her homework and used the leg kicks to start the fight. After those first two hard leg kicks my natural reaction was to pick up the kick and take her down. That wasn't the plan! I think getting her back would have been better later in the round but she was still fresh and strong so she was able to reverse the situation and take my back. All I remember was waking up with Big John over me thinking holy crap where am I?!?! lol. That was the first time I was ever put to sleep and I hope it's the last. But the experience was something I wouldn't trade for the world even if I didn't get the win. It taught me a lot!
Raquel takes Nunes's back
CJ: Speaking of that fight, you possess the "fighting spirit" that endears fans to fighters. Fellow Hawaiian Enson Inoue calls it by the Japanese "Yamato Damashi". Can you talk about that attitude/mindset? Is it something you only carry into your fights or is it in all aspects of your life?
RP: I am Hawaiian and I am extremely proud to be Hawaiian. I'm very in touch with my culture and try to live the Hawaiian way. Our people were warriors and they fought till the death for what was theirs. This is something that was instilled in me from my father. He raised us to always do what we had to with no excuses and to always strive for the best no matter how hard it may be. Never settling. When I first started fighting he told me that I have to believe in this dream so much that I'm willing to die in that cage. That this is the mindset I should always have. I thought he was a little crazy at first but I now believe this. I can accept losing, but I can't accept not giving my best. I have dislocated my elbow and tore every ligament in it because I wouldn't tap. I've went to sleep in a match but I don't regret it because like I said, I can't accept not giving my best.
CJ: Looking at your record it is hard to believe you are only 22. You have already faced off against some of the toughest fighters in your division. Can you talk about what your goals are in MMA? Are there any future match ups/championships/ goals you have in and out of MMA?
RP: I want to be the best fighter in the world. I want that UFC title. There is nothing I want more than that and there's not a thing I won't do to get there. I feel like I'm taking the necessary steps to get there and I feel like I'll be there soon. I'll fight anyone. I think matchmakers know that because I'm always one of the first people they call when someone gets hurt and if I'm able to, I'll always take the fight. I'm also really falling in love with jiujitsu and I'm definitely on this journey whole heartedly too. I'm working towards that black belt and I want to keep competing in the big tournaments. I love this life and I have a lot of goals as a martial artist. I'm taking it one day at a time and getting a little better everyday.
CJ: You live in the beautiful state of Hawaii. What are your hobbies? What kind of stuff do you like to do in your free-time?
RP: Majority of my time is spent training and working. I work an average of 22-28 hours a week at my bank job, I teach classes, run private lessons and I train at least twice a day and average 30 hours of training a week. I don't have a lot of free time but any time that I do have is spent with my family. We are very close! If we're not at my Dad's house hanging out we're at the beach, training or hiking. I love being outdoors and I try to be in touch with the land and the ocean as much as possible. It sounds crazy but I feel like I draw my mana(strength/power) from the people I love, the land and ocean so it's a necessity for me.
CJ: Time for some Japanese MMA questions. So in Japan there are several high-profile fighters in your division. There are fighters like Rin Nakai (13-01) and Hitomi Akano (18-10). Starting with Rin, first off do you know who she is? Second, what do you think a fight with her would go like? Same question for Akano. What do you think a win over one of these two would do for your career?
RP: I have never seen Rin Nakai fight but I am familiar with who she is. Hitomi and I are under the same management and I have even talked to her and Megumi about training together here in Hawaii or in Japan sometime. They are both very experienced fighters and Japanese fighters are always hard to finish. I don't see myself fighting any of them soon but like any fight, I'd like to play my game. I think I have grown a lot over the last six months of down time and I can keep a little more composure and think and feel and react better. I always say that i'll take whatever is given to me. Wins over these women would obviously say a lot about me as a fighter because one is 13-0 and everyone knows who Akano is. She's a living legend in the sport.
A. Hamasaki, H. Akano, Raquel, Megumi Fujii
CJ: There have been so many important figures in Women's MMA, who stands out to you? Are there any fighters that you look up to?
RP: I respect every single fighter. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to do what we do. Stylistically I look up to Ben Henderson a lot. I love how he fights and the person he is. I've always loved GSP because he's a technician. He's so hard to beat because he's just so smart and a complete martial artist. There's a lot of great female fighters but I don't know if there's anyone who really stands out to me yet. I think we're in a defining time for women's mma and we're trying to figure that out right now.
CJ: Is there anything that you want to say?
RP: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I HOPE THESE ANSWERS ARE GOOD AND THEY HELP.
I would like to thank Raquel for the interview. We would also like to wish her the best of luck in Abu Dhabi!
Seiko Yamamoto Interview 4/3/13
Seiko Yamamoto Interview 4/3/13
The 2013 Asian ADCC Trials, all eyes were on one athlete. Not a man but a woman, Seiko Yamamoto. To people in the West she may only be the younger sister of UFC fighter Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto but in Japan and the world of wrestling she is much more. Seiko, like her sister, father and brother, is an excellent wrestler. How good might you ask? She is a 4 time World Champion and also has 2 Asian Wrestling Championships amongst her many victories.
In 2006, Seiko got married and retired from the sport and in 2007 gave birth to a son. 2 years later in 2009, Seiko announced that she was coming back to competition. Her return was a success, as she won at the Poland Open.
However, it is her participation in the ADCC Asian Trials that has sparked people's attention recently. At 32 years old, the Yamamoto family member showed that she is still on top of the competition. She used her wrestling and grappling experience to easily win all of her matches. She won matches over former ADCC Champion Sayaka Shioda and over MMA fighter Takayo Hashi. Reports state that she was able to get multiple takedowns and dominate from the mount and side-control in her matches.
First off, I would like to thank Seiko for the interview. The interview was originally conducted in Japanese and translated to English. Enjoy,
CJ: Congratulations on the big win. Can you talk about your training and how the event went for you?
SY: The matches were a lot of fun! I was so nervous because there is so much that I don't know, it was a lot of fun. Since I had never practiced grappling before, I went to the Reversal Gym and practiced with Kataoka and Sugiyama. And, of course I participated in Krazy Bee's Pro class with Kotetsu Boku and Kyoji Horiguchi. Afterwards, I went to AACC once and Abu Ani, Megumi Fujii and others taught me. In Canada, in downtown, I had fun learning from Shah Franco at Inner City. All together I trained for about a month so I want to become more acquainted with grappling. In any case, its fun.
CJ: Are you excited for the finals? Who do you expect to face and what will you do to prepare?
SY: I don't know anything about my opponents fights. So it will be the same as my recent bouts. I have wrestling experience and I plan to win but it depends on my opponent, my grappling skill is not so high so I have to practice more.
CJ: You are a mother and a high level competitor. What is that like? Is it difficult?
SY: That's so, when I was unmarried, all 24 hours were mine. Now it is different. I get up early, make my child's food, make his bento (lunch), take him to school then I do my morning practice. After that, I make an onigiri (rice ball) and slice fruit for a snack, then I make dinner. And, immediately after that it is time to go to school. After I go to get my child, I go to afternoon practice with my child. After practice, I get dinner ready and we eat. And after I get home, I hurry up and take a bath, brush my teeth and go to bed. Having done that, just like that, one day is over. lolBut, I am sure of one thing. I am more satisfied and can fight with a happy feeling more than when I was alone. Any time any where, I have a big supporter in my son, so it's not scary.
CJ: You come from a famous family. Your brother is "Kid" Yamamoto, you father and sister are famous wrestlers and your husband is a handball athlete. What is that like? Was it difficult growing up? Do you have any good stories?
SY: There is no denying it. From when I was a kid, I was not forced to go to strict practice. Because of that, I was calm and on my own. Because of that, everything was my responsibility and I went forward without any regrets. My father, allowed me to to do a lot of sports when I was a child. I am really grateful for it. My husband, he has also been in a top-level environment, so even now he understands/appreciates what I am doing.
CJ: You probably hear this question a lot. Your brother is a very skilled MMA fighter. Do you want to try MMA? Is there a fight of your brothers that you like?
SY: All of my families matches make me nervous, I feel like my heart will come out of my mouth. I am not used to seeing him get punched. lol
CJ: Obviously, wrestling is important to your family. What are your thoughts on wrestling being taken out of the Olympics? What do people have to do to get it back in?
SY: We, until the decision is finalized, up till the last second, we must desperately try to stop it. There are kids who are trying hard now and it is their dream. And for the people who love wrestling. Everything is like a match. If we give up, it is over.
CJ: You have won so many gold medals and championships, which time stands out? Is their a championship that is meaningful to you?
SY: My first match, the first time I became a world champion. It was the highest kind of happiness. However, the same day that I got back to Japan, my mother died. I experienced the highest of moments and the worst of moments at the same time.
CJ: You and your sister are successful wrestlers, what is your advice to girls in the sport?
SY: When it comes to wrestling, and other sports, put forth a lot of effort and that effort will return to you. Please go for it with all your might.
CJ: Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers?
SY: I am living doing what I want. From here on, I am not sure what path I will take. I am excited with what's going on in my life. Thank you all for reading my interview.
The "Krazy Bee Girl"