Nobutatsu Suzuki fights for the inaugural ONE FC Welterweight Championship on March 14, 2014. Thrust into the spotlight with his ONE FC win over Phil Baroni, he finally sees a chance at gold.
Suzuki is not a typical MMA fighter – well, maybe for Japan he is. Coming from a Kyokushin karate competition background, he made the transition into MMA, went pro, but still had to maintain his full-time career as a notary. Suzuki now boasts ten wins all by knock out. With the dominant position his record holds, ONE FC chose him to match Adam Kayoom in Malaysia for the Welterweight belt last year. However, the fight failed to manifest when Kayoom got injured, leaving Suzuki even more thirsty for the chance to shine. He’s become quite the humorous character on social media. It’s an interesting contrast to his ice-cold ring persona.
Now he’s back in Malaysia, and profiting from the visibility he gained from the initial ONE FC title match. MMA-in-ASIA interviewed him just ahead of his title match on how his training for the fight has been
MMA-in-ASIA: Congratulations on your fight for the championship. Third time’s the charm?
Suzuki: Thanks, but I thought it was only two.
MMA-in-ASIA: Isn’t this number three?
Suzuki: No, Pinto wasn’t for the title.
MMA-in-ASIA: Ah, right. Well you will be fighting for the tile back in Malaysia. Since the title fight was first promoted in Malaysia, people here know you well. Will that give you an edge? That you may have more of the audience cheering for you?
Suzuki: I hope so!
MMA-in-ASIA: Does it help you to have the audience vocally supporting you?
Suzuki: I feel it! The last time I was in KL, and the people tried to talk to me and then they cheered me on, I feel like this is my home town! It feels better than fighting in Japan.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you feel more hungry for this because it’s a title shot?
Suzuki: Of course I really want to have a title. But my first priority is that I will not make my fight a shameful one in front of everyone.
MMA-in-ASIA: In your fight with Phil Baroni, many people say you won because of his broken ankle. How did you feel at the moment it happened? Did you sense a KO?
Suzuki: I don’t care what people said. I don’t care what Phil Baroni said about his ankle. My job was to go in and fight. My opinion of that moment is that I punched him and he was knocked out. So the injury is not relevant to me, I knocked him out. But whatever people choose to say, it’s okay with me. I had a knockout. And I had luck on my side!
MMA-in-ASIA: Since you’ve become more well-known, your humor has come out a lot more in social media. Is it due to frustration at not fighting, or are you naturally humorous?
Suzuki: No, I’m always funny! I don’t really want to show the training and the gym stuff, because this is just normal for a fighter. I want to show my humor. I’m a funny guy.
MMA-in-ASIA: Are you training with Gomi at all?
Suzuki: Ahh. No, he broke his hand unfortunately.
MMA-in-ASIA: Are you changing your training or increasing it at all for this fight?
Suzuki: No, nothing unusual, no more no less. I still have to deal with time management. But I’m pretty good with it.
MMA-in-ASIA: This event will be on Star Sports live, how do you feel about having millions of people watching you? Is there any extra pressure?
Suzuki: Like what I said before, I just don’t want to make a shameful fight. I want to make people enjoy my fight. I will try to make all those people who watch think that MMA is great.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve been catapulted into being an international star from being a regional Japanese star, and fighting against an American on an international broadcast for a title. Do you you feel different than you did two years ago?
Suzuki: I was a professional fighter before, of course, but now I feel like I have to be a perfect professional fighter. I think about this all the time. My mindset has changed a lot.
MMA-in-ASIA: With Ben Askren coming into ONE FC, and fighters like Aoki, Bibiano, and champions from other organizations signing to ONE FC, the level has been raised quite a bit. What do you feel about ONE FC overall?
Suzuki: Well, even though I’ve only fought one time for ONE FC, I feel that I belong to ONE FC already. Since the fighters here come from PXC and Bellator, it means I have to also stand up and be strong as a ONE FC fighter.
MMA-in-ASIA: Is it important that the belt comes back to Japan?
Suzuki: Of course. Strong Japanese spirit.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your thoughts on your opponent being from an American camp?
Suzuki: Of course I can tell that American fighters are very strong, but I feel that I can overcome. I think he’s a very powerful opponent and very detailed. Compared with Phil Baroni – Brock Larson has more tactics and strategies, he’s very clever. I can and will beat him.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you devised plans for this?
Suzuki: Larson is a lefty so I have prepared a plan for this. I have already devised tactics to deal with him.
MMA-in-ASIA: Are you intimidated by his huge amount of submission wins?
Suzuki: I feel nothing at all.
MMA-in-ASIA: Many people don’t know that your humorous personality is quite different from your Kyokushin fighing background. What are the similarities between Kyokushin and MMA?
Suzuki: It’s the same, my focus is the same. From Kyokushin to MMA fighting, I am very focused and have a single mindset no matter what I fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: How do you achieve that focus?
Suzuki: My mindset is that I need to win for myself. My opponent doesn’t matter, the important think is that I have to deal with me as an opponent. I am my first opponent.
MMA-in-ASIA: What did you eat after weigh ins?
Suzuki: A Californa roll, garlic fried rice, and cold tofu.
MMA-in-ASIA: No Malaysian food?
Suzuki: That’s for dinner!
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you think about the hot weather in Malaysia?
Suzuki: It’s okay, it doesn’t matter. I can handle anything!