Striking sensation Masayuki Kikuiri talks about his return from injury, how the time off affected him and his recent win over a battle-hardened, more experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Yuta Nakamura at “Pancrase 316.” The 25-year-old opens up about his change of heart, and why he decided to now focus on the welterweight division in this official interview.
It’s been exactly one year since you fought Yasuaki Kishimoto. Tell us how you felt at that time.
“Yes, so just before that I’d had a year off and my comeback fight was against [Yusuke] Kasuya. I got beaten up by Kasuya in the 1st round. I was coming off four straight wins, so to get smashed by someone so strong in the 1st round made me lose confidence at first. I thought I can’t lose like this, so I rode that feeling. But, then [against Kishimoto] it was a draw. The weight cut was hard – I dropped around 20kg and didn’t feel I was moving well.”
What has changed for you as a fighter in this last year?
“Probably the biggest thing is my spirit. I’m 25 now. Most people are just working, but I’m doing a part-time job and training at the same time. So, I’m always thinking that I can’t keep going like this. My sense of urgency has really grown my spirit.”
Congratulations on your win. Tell us how you feel now.
“Thank you. Yes, I’d had another year off [due to injury], so I felt a bit clunky at first. But, I dealt with it and now I feel satisfied and glad.”
How were you feeling in the lead up to the fight?
“Honestly, until about three days before the fight I thought about retiring if I lost. I definitely had to win this, and I went in with that same feeling thinking about everyone supporting me. I just fought with a cannot lose spirit.”
You’re a tough fighter, but so is Nakamura.
“Yes, it felt like no matter how many times I hit him, he just kept getting up. It started to get scary! I think we both got the same feeling and I really enjoyed it.”
Did you have a strategy for Nakamura?
“Not especially, but my coach said just to be careful of his left hook. Even though I was told I still caught one that rocked me in the 1st round.”
How did it all play out?
“I caught him with a punch in the 1st round and he went down. I thought his punches wouldn’t really affect me, so I kept pushing forward. So, I was up in points going into the second round and I stayed calm and caught him. Then I finished with ground and pound. I was focused on getting the finish with my cross and hook – we covered that in training – and it worked.”
Did you have any tactics if it went to the ground?
“[Nakamura] is a solid grappler, so I decided he went for the takedown I’d stuff it and stay standing, and if he took me down at the fence, I’d get up and strike.”
Other than his left hook, did you feel in any danger during the fight?
“His left cross had surprising length on it. He caught me from a distance I didn’t think he could, but I didn’t feel much power so I wasn’t very scared.”
Overall, did the fight go as you thought it would?
“No, not at all. I thought I’d throw it on him in the 1st round and finish it, but actually it was quite a hard fight. I thought it would be more of an MMA feel, but it turned out to be a brawl. But, I was glad that everyone who watched enjoyed it.”
When would you like to get in there again?
“As soon as possible. I’ve come off a lot of injuries, so I want to see how much I can do in the next year. Now that I’m up at welterweight I don’t have to cut as much. I want to get up the rankings as fast as I can in a short span.”
Who would you like to face next?
“Well, I should be in the rankings with this, so I’d like to fight someone above me. I’m just starting in the division, so I can’t really say this guy or that guy, but I’ll take out everyone in front of me.”
Stylistically, who would make a good match up for you?
“Any striker would make a good stand and bang match up. The Champion, [Hiroyuki] Tetsuka is undoubtedly strong. His striking is good, he’s got takedowns. After all the reason I’ve come to this division is to face Tetsuka. You have to face the Champion. I’m here to fight him.”
What do you have for the fans next time?
“I want to show more MMA. I come from kickboxing, so I’m a striker, but I want to show a mix of takedowns and grappling. I want to show my MMA.”