Michihiro Omigawa is an interesting character: one minute he’s serious and introspective, the next he’s cracking a grin and pretending to be Ultraman. MMA-in-ASIA had the chance to catch up with him at Shuichuro Katsumura‘s Groundslam Yokohama while he was in final preparations for his DREAM 18 New Years battle with Tatsuya Kawajiri. Omigawa was running the gamut of sparring situations with his stellar team at Groundslam: many such as BJ Kojima, Caol Uno, Michinori Tanaka, and Sen Nakadai. Five minute rounds with 30 second rests repeated over and over as bodies flew against the cage and matted walls, slammed the canvas, and collided with each other. Body shots, wrestling, takedowns, and high kicks were all on the menu. Final week preparations while cutting weight are brutal.
Omigawa, a medalist in international Judo competition, is one of the “new age” of Japanese fighters who didn’t get a start in Shooto or Pancrase and yet was signed early to the UFC. He can credit his stint in DEEP for that. A run through Sengoku and DREAM got him a second shot at the UFC. His five fights in the featherweight division, arguably the toughest roster of the promotion, got him mixed results, with a 1-4 record that included a controversial decision against him when he fought Darren Elkins.
At only two weeks out from DREAM 18, Omigawa was announced to be Kawajiri’s opponent. It is going to be a very heated homecoming for Omigawa. After having fought in the US, UK, Brazil, and Canada, he’ll again stand in Tokyo’s Saitama Super Arena and not have to deal with a time change before another massive fight. Right after an intense workout, he gave this interview.
MMA-in-ASIA: You and Kawajiri fighting is a rather exciting match, especially for Japanese MMA. How do you see it?
Omigawa: Yes, it’s a great match! Historical!
Did you know about this fight before it was announced two weeks ago?
No, but it’s no problem.
Where have you been training, and with whom?
All these guys here at Groundslam. We’re a team here. Between all of us, we can do it!
What have you been working on?
I’ve been doing boxing, wrestling, takedown.
Take down defense?
No, not defense, I’m going to take him down!
How much are you having to cut for this?
Maybe 7 or 8 kilos. I’m OK.
Since you’ve only had two weeks to prepare for this fight, what was your conditioning like before? Do you consistantly train even in off time?
In October I went to the US to train. Through November, with Team Alpha Male and Urijah Faber. He’s a really nice guy.
Did you enjoy the wrestling?
What were the major differences between training there and here in Japan?
In America, there’s more situational sparring, drills. Here we don’t do as much situational sparring, but I still have to take somebody’s back and you have to escape. Here, there’s more sparring. In America, it’s drill, drill, drill.
Who did you train with at Alpha Male?
Chad Mendes, TJ Dillashaw, Joseph Benavidez, small guy! Many, many people. A lot of great wrestlers. And Joe Rogan! Also the US wrestling team. It was all good.
Do you know where you will you plan on fighting after DREAM?
After I beat Kawajiri, I don’t know. I have to beat Kawajiri first. Then after that is my next road.
Is GLORY taking over DREAM a good thing for Japan MMA?
It doesn’t matter to me. My next fight is more important than politics. They gave me Kawajiri and I wanted him, so that’s good.
What do you think the state of MMA in Japan is today?
I think it’s good. It’s going up.
And what about the UFC doing shows in Japan now, what will this do?
I think it will make MMA more popular in Japan.
What will you do after the fight, to rest and relax?
I’ll spend time with my family, my wife and baby. And travel.
Do you see any up and coming young fighters in Japan?
Him! (points to Michinori Tanaka who is still doing drills long after everyone else has showered and packed)
Thank you so much for your time.
Omigawa then proceeds to the showers. We continued to interview other fighters in Groundslam, and as we did so, Omigawa kept interrupting in hilarious ways. While BJ was on camera, Omigawa came out of the showers and walked by him in his underwear. During Michinori’s interview, he kept cracking jokes so the youngster couldn’t concentrate. Omigawa is a very serious workhorse on the mats, but off them, he’s a character and a very friendly person. Groundslam has a great atmosphere and seems to be a closely-knit group of fighters who train together quite well. With constant fights on the horizon for many of them, there’s a consistent goal-oriented purpose to the work. A true gem of a gym in Japan.