Koji Oishi defends the Featherweight title for the second time at ONE FC 19 in Dubai on August 29, 2014. In probably the most high profile match of his career, Oishi still goes at it with precision workmanship.
Oishi’s first title affair was a wild and thrilling go-for-broke bout with Honorio Banario that epitomized the styles of both men: willingness to engage, heavy hands, and incredible heart. Oishi got the birthday win and was all smiles; he’d just come back from a loss of his King Of Pancrase Lightweight title, then unsuccessfully contended for the Featherweight title in the same promotion.
His second defense of the ONE FC belt was also against Banario, but showed the other side of the Champ; Oishi was cautious, calculating and unwilling to engage until he found his own opening. And when he did, it was lights out yet again for Honorio.
Oishi was due to get the winner of the contender’s bout between Eric Kelly and Rob Lisita, which turned out to be Kelly. However, Kelly hadn’t recovered in sufficient time for the planned title challenge, so ONE FC called up newly signed Jadamba Narantungalag to fill the spot. Mongolia’s most notable and accomplished MMA fighter made the drop to featherweight in ONE FC and beelined straight for Oishi’s belt.
Ahead of his title defense in Dubai, MMA-in-ASIA spoke with Oishi about his reign, the bout in front of him, and what lies beyond.
MMA-in-ASIA: What were your feelings when you learned you would be a part of the blockbuster ONE FC card in Dubai?
Oishi: First of all, I was so, so happy to have the offer that ONE FC made a match for me among three title matches. It was supposed to be four actually. Since I learned that, I know that this time even is very important for ONE FC as well.
MMA-in-ASIA: What were your first thoughts when you learned of your opponent change to Jadamba?
Oishi I didn’t feel any different because I knew that someday I would have to fight either Eric Kerry or Jadamba. As long as I am the Champion, I will have to fight him.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your opinion of him?
Oishi: Well… he is a powerful fighter, and has a lot of energy…
MMA-in-ASIA: Did you change your training to adjust to his game? Will we watch “tactical Oishi” or “brawler Oishi” in this match?
Oishi: I watched his fights and I imaged what it would be like to be in the cage with him, but generally I do not think a lot about it. I’ve been training with everyone in Pancraseism, but to be honest, I never think about my training when I’m fighting with my opponent.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your thoughts on sharing the marquee with two other championship fights, and that three Japanese are the reigning Champs?
Oishi: I am glad to hear this question from you. If I take a look at the results, I think it should be like this.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your prediction for Shinya Aoki versus Kamal Shalorus?
Oishi: Aoki will win.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your prediction for Nobutatsu Suzuki versus Ben Askren?
Oishi: If his striking is good enough, Suzuki will win.
MMA-in-ASIA: What’s your prediction for Oishi versus Jadamba?
Oishi: I will just do my best as much as I can. So I can’t predict my fight. Sorry!
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you think about the additions of Hanzo Tanaka and Rambo Suzuki to ONE FC?
Oishi: It’s a very good thing that more Japanese fighters have joined ONE FC. We have so many good fighters in Japan.
MMA-in-ASIA: You were excited like a little kid after winning and defending your belt. Do you still feel this happiness, or do you feel confident about your status as the Champion?
Oishi: I am still so happy to keep being the Champion. However, now I see that a lot of good fighters like Eric Kelly and Jadamba exist infinitely, and feel that it’s going be a tough road.
MMA-in-ASIA: Your second title defense is the most number of defenses so far in ONE FC. Does this give you any pressure?
Oishi: Pressure comes with me always.