With translation by MMA-in-ASIA Japan Correspondent Kei Kumaki
Satoru Kitaoka takes on Richie Whitson in the Pancrase Grand Slam Lightweight semifinals on October 5, 2014.
Kitaoka is the bastion of the lightweight division in Japan these days, with a crown in DEEP and a conquest of the Pancrase World Slam Tournament moving into the semifinals on October 5th.
The grappling madman has become an icon of Japanese MMA around the world with his engaging submissions, incredible physique, and insane emotional reactions both before and after his fights. And still, while his compadres have gone on to fight in promotions outside of Japan post-DREAM, Kitaoka has stayed put.
MMA-in-ASIA spoke with him about this, and about many other topics – including “the stare” – in this interview ahead of his semifinal bout against Ritchie Whitson at Pancrase 261.
MMA-in-ASIA: First of all, how is your condition going into the fight this weekend?
Kitaoka: My condition is excellent!
MMA-in-ASIA: You are now one of Japan’s most famous fighters. After DREAM finished, why didn’t you go to fight overseas?
Kitaoka: I was promised a title shot in DEEP by DEEP President Shigeru Saeki.
MMA-in-ASIA: You have a huge record that spans 14 years. What is your motivation to keep fighting so constantly?
Kitaoka: I am aggressive. This is what Minoru Suzuki gave as lessons in PANCRASE Dojo. It is a story from more than ten years ago
MMA-in-ASIA: How do you stay focused?
Kitaoka: I just want to finish my opponent.
MMA-in-ASIA: So, what is your opinion of your next opponent Richie Whitson?
Kitaoka. I think that he is an experience-rich player. That is all.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’re participating in the PANCRASE tournament and you’re the DEEP champion. This is the highest level in Japan right now. Do you feel pressure?
Kitaoka: Yes, but I enjoy it!
MMA-in-ASIA: Because you’re the reigning DEEP champion, you must think past the fight in front of you, about your next challenger. Who might he be?
Kitaoka: The number 1 contender is Yoshiyuki “Zenko” Yoshida. Besides him, there’s a lot of attention on Shigetoshi Iwase, Yasuaki Kishimoto, and Kimihiro Etoh.
MMA-in-ASIA: What would you say is the most improved part of your MMA game in the last year?
Kitaoka: It is a secret!
MMA-in-ASIA: Okay, then what is your favorite submission?
Kitaoka: North South choke!
MMA-in-ASIA: Would you fight in the Metamoris grappling event?
Kitaoka: No… Pure grappling is very difficult!
MMA-in-ASIA: Before each fight, you have a crazy stare. Is this natural? Or are you trying to scare your opponents?
Kitaoka: It is natural. I am only concentrating.
MMA-in-ASIA: Besides grappling and MMA, do you have any hobbies?
Kitaoka: Watching anime! Recently, I thought “Kill la Kill” was interesting. Now I think “GUNDAM Reconguista of G” is a pleasure.
MMA-in-ASIA: Regarding having a long career, and staying active, what is your advice to young players?
Kitaoka: Be troubled! Suffer! Enjoy! It is martial arts!
MMA-in-ASIA: Will the popularity of MMA rise in Japan again?
Kitaoka: I think that it’s difficult. But I won’t give up.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your future goals in MMA?
Kitaoka: The next fight, I will try to fight hard!