Shinichi “BJ” Kojima is a pint-sized ball of muscle with an ever-changing expression. At first he seems quietly intense, as if the waters run deep in the Shooto champ’s mind. Then he breaks out in a joke or a shout of encouragement to a teammate, and his air of seriousness is lifted. BJ’s personality is in fact much like his fighting style. He’s a grappler at the base of his art, yet can be surprising with staccato striking at just the right moment. He’ll be putting his approach to good use in his next fight with talented grappling standout Andrew Leone at ONE FC 10 on September 13, 2013.
BJ’s historical 4 year-long defense of the Shooto Bantamweight Championship and nearly a decade within the organization was punctuated with riveting rivalries against Mamoru Yamaguchi and Yasuhiro Urushitani, both fellow legends in their own capacity. Originally BJ was set to have a rubber match with Urushitani as both are now signed to ONE FC. Instead, he was handed the lesser-known but equally threatening Leone in the lead up to the promotion’s flyweight title bout. The unknown quality isn’t something that bothers the veteran as he’s seen his share of young guns coming at him – and he never takes them lightly.
On the lead up to his trip to Jakarta, Indonesia for the fight, MMA-in-ASIA caught up with BJ. Special thanks to Kei Kumaki for translation.
MMA-in-ASIA: BJ, your next bout at ONE FC is a big one for you. You’re no stranger to fighting prospects, and you’re about to get handed another one when you step in the cage against Andrew Leone. He’s got some good grappling skills, we’ve all seen that now, so how are you training specifically for him?
BJ: I think Andrew has good wrestling skills – I am training to adjust to his wrestling skills. I always want to knock out or tap out in my fights, this one won’t be any different.
MMA-in-ASIA: You train at Groundslam, do you think you could possibly show us a finish by Coach Katsumura’s famous “Ninja Choke”?
BJ: I don’t know if I’m good enough at the “Ninja Choke” or not!
MMA-in-ASIA: Ot of all the guys you train with, Michihiro Omigawa, Takeya Mizugaki, Caol Uno, Michinori Tanaka, do you have any specific training partners for this fight?
BJ: I have no particular training partner, I am just very proud that I have the opportunity to train with these guys.
MMA-in-ASIA: Many of the fighters you regularly train with are bigger than you. How does this affect your performance when you fight someone at your own weight?
BJ: I feel that my movement has really improved. I think I’m more polished as a fighter now, more complete.
MMA-in-ASIA: Since your return to MMA after a long layoff with knee surgery, what would you say is your biggest improvement, or how have you changed?
BJ: My whole thinking has changed, and all my ideas about MMA in general.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your opinion of the development of MMA across Asia right now?
BJ: There are many different situations in each country of course, but I think MMA is developing excellently.
MMA-in-ASIA: There are many big fights in Japan now, more internet streaming, and more promotions want to come to Japan. So, is the Japan MMA market actually growing again?
BJ: I don’t know because I am just a fighter, not a critic.
MMA-in-ASIA: Is UFC coming to Asia a positive thing for MMA here?
MMA-in-ASIA: Across Asia, especially in Japan champions are fighting other promotions’ champions, and fighting across other organizations. How do you feel about these fighters challenging themselves, and possibly losing outside of their own promotions?
BJ: I know there are many different opinions on this. In my opinion, to accept challenge is wonderful.
MMA-in-ASIA: Should lighter weight classes get more importance on a global level? How can this be achieved?
BJ: It should get more importance. The key to get more people to take notice is by individual work – a high level of awareness in the way each MMA fighter tackles MMA.
MMA-in-ASIA: Who are some of the best fighters (worldwide) in your division now?
BJ: Demetrious Johnson.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is it like fighting in ONE FC in front of huge crowds? Do you feel like you are known in Southeast Asia like you are in Japan?
BJ: It is very exciting! But I don’t think I’m well-known there quite yet.
MMA-in-ASIA: I happen to know that you are a very big foodie, and have a huge appetite. What has your diet been like for this fight?
BJ: I eat meat, meat, meat! Just joking… I think the important thing is to always have a good balanced meal.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your entrance song going to be and will you dye your hair blond again?
BJ: One More Time Daft Punk, and no.
MMA-in-ASIA: Why should people cheer for BJ in your next ONE FC fight?
BJ: Because I will do my best!