Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri finally makes his way into the Octagon in UFC Singapore on January 4, 2014. It is the promotion’s first event in South East Asia, and it kicks off the roster for 2014.
Crusher is one of the most well-known Japanese fighters in the sport of MMA. As such, his debut in the UFC is felt as long overdue by many. And Kawajiri himself is ripe for it. In the lead up to fight night, MMA-in-ASIA briefly spoke with Crusher about his preparations, his opponent, and his new goals.
MMA-in-ASIA: The last time you were in a fight was New Years Eve 2012 for DREAM 18. You’re one of the few guys who hasn’t stepped back into DEEP or taken fights just to keep active. So how have you felt during this past year?
I actually thought about dying a couple of times! [laughs]
MMA-in-ASIA: You were outspoken about your misgivings for a cage in our last interview, citing a lack of cages and specific training in Japan. Do any issues remain about you fighting in a cage?
I don’t really care about the difference any more, I don’t think about that any more. It doesn’t bother me at all.
MMA-in-ASIA: Your opponent, Sean Soriano, has far fewer fights than you, is younger than you, and newer than you. Do you feel he will be an easy opponent or are you taking him seriously?
Well I’m not afraid of him just because he’s young. And because he’s undefeated, he’s not afraid of losing. So I’m going to teach him how to lose, and I’m going to approach this fight as if I’m facing Jose Aldo.
MMA-in-ASIA: This past year, you’ve had some of your students rise in competition and you’ve taken them to shows including outside of Japan to Korea. And now you’re in Singapore for the first UFC card in South East Asia. How do you see MMA as a whole in Asia right now?
It’s fantastic that MMA is growing in Asia, but my goal is that if people say who is the best fighter from Asia, I want them to say “Tatsuya Kawajiri.” So for the fans, I want them to want me more.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your goals in the UFC?
To become the Featherweight Champion.
MMA-in-ASIA: And to do this, you may have to fight other Asians. How do you feel about that?
I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter if I fight other Japanese. By my intention is that I want to fight top, strong guys.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you think because of your status in Japan and your fight history that you will get fast-forwarded to a title shot?
Yes, I hope so. I’m looking to get a title fight after I win three in a row.
MMA-in-ASIA: Is there anything new you’ve been working on, or will you stick to the same “Crusher” style?
Sure, I do have a couple of new moves! Like the next one, the “Kawa-Chan Hold”!