KOJI OISHI: “I would be proud to be the ONE FC champion”

Koji Oishi will challenge Honorio Banario for the ONE Fighting Championship Featherweight Title on May 31, 2013. The latest Japanese giant to be signed by the organization is the former King of Pancrase and one of the most well-traveled fighters the country has produced.

On May 31st at Mall of Asia Arena, Manila, Koji Oishi will be challenging current Champion Honorio Banario for the Featherweight Belt at ONE FC 9: “Rise to Power”. Oishi has a career spanning nearly thirteen years and has 42 fights against some of the biggest names in his division such as Carlos Condit, both of the Diaz brothers, Chris Lytle, Maximo Blanco, Kotano, Shoji, Isao, Heath Sims, Hoshino, Kitaoka. Oishi is quite literally walking, talking, and punching history: his first professional fight was in 2000 at UFC 25 Japan. How is that for launching a career?

There’s no doubt that the former King of Pancrase will be bringing some impressive skills to his clash with Banario. MMA-in-ASIA Correspondent John Merva spoke with him about his upcoming title fight, his training, and his views on MMA in general.

MMA-in-ASIA: How and why did your start training in MMA?

Oishi: When I was in Elementary School, I was really into pro-wrestling and had basically decided that was what I wanted to do so in High School I started catch wrestling. Then I went to a Pancrase event and thought it would be the way to become the best fighter I could be. Funnily enough, in my mind at the time there was actually no difference between Pancrase and pro-wrestling – all I really wanted to do was fight!

MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve had a long career with some big fights to your name. Could you discuss some of the highs and lows of your journey thus far?

Oishi: I don’t really think of my career in terms of highs and lows. With each win I get stronger and I learn from each loss and get stronger too. The more fights I have, the more I can grow and mature as a fighter.

MMA-in-ASIA: How do you see your fight with Honorio Banario going? Do you have any particular gameplan? He’s still a relatively young fighter – will your experience play a role in the fight?

Oishi: Well, every fight has a flow to it so I will basically be following the way the fight goes. Obviously I want to use my wrestling but I’m not going to be trapped into one strategy. As the fight goes on I will just be looking to win with whatever makes sense at the time!

With regard to Honorio, I definitely respect him as an opponent and I don’t really think there’s any use in comparing careers or experience. If the fight develops into a war then I guess my experience will come into play but I don’t think that it necessarily gives me much of an advantage – he could get lucky early on, just like I could.

MMA-in-ASIA: Who have you been training with for this fight? What’s your usual training routine?

Oishi: I’ve been following my usual training patterns at the Pancraseism gym. I do a lot of sparring, usually about 6 times a week. We do integrated MMA sparring as well as splitting it up into the different disciplines – boxing, grappling, etc. as well as a lot of situational drills.

MMA-in-ASIA: In the past there has been a lot of discussion about Japanese fighters often not wanting to cut weight, especially during the PRIDE era. Is that changing? How much weight do you usually cut for a fight?

Oishi: I don’t do a huge weight cut, usually about five or six kilos. We’re definitely seeing a change in weightcutting in Japan as we follow the UFC model more. For me though I’ve been cutting weight since wrestling competitions in high school, where I basically always dropped about the same amount – five to six kilos.

MMA-in-ASIA: What are the opportunities like for young fighters in Japan now? Do you see JMMA becoming more ‘Westernized’?

Oishi: With the closing of PRIDE and DREAM, there are definitely fewer places to fight for Japanese fighters and this is a bit of a concern. We are seeing more and more fighters heading to Asia where we’ve been doing very well!

With regard to the ‘Westernization’ of JMMA, obviously there is the ever present rumour that Pancrase will switch to a cage, but I think it will still remain recognizably Pancrase!

MMA-in-ASIA: ONE FC is held in a cage and has some different rules to Pancrase and Japanese organizations, most notably the inclusion of elbows. Has this had any effect on your training?

Oishi: At the Pancraseism gym we have a ring but unfortunately not a cage. We do manage to simulate a cage by using a wall or other methods so I have been training with the cage in mind. The rule changes don’t bother me much – Pancrase doesn’t allow elbows but it has always allowed soccer kicks. I have obviously changed up my sparring and pad work to make sure I’m okay with whatever comes my way!

MMA-in-ASIA: How does this being a championship bout change your mental approach and your training?

Oishi: I would love to say that it doesn’t, that I can just train and prepare for it just like any other fight, but obviously that’s just not true. There is always a little extra pressure and it’s always in the back of your mind. With that said though, it just fuels the fire that little bit more!

MMA-in-ASIA: What does the future hold for Koji Oishi? Is there anyone that you would particularly like to fight?

Oishi: I’m not looking past Banario at all. I really haven’t thought about the future past May 31st. I would be proud to be the ONE FC champion and to defend the belt in the organization.

MMA-in-ASIA: Would you like to say anything to your fans and supporters?

Oishi: There have been a lot of people who have supported me throughout my career, both during the good times and the bad. There aren’t really the words to thank them properly for sticking with me all the way so I hope I can reward that faith at the end of the month. Thank you all so much for the support and keep watching me!!!