Motonobu Tezuka makes his promotional debut with South Korea’s ROAD FC on February 9, 2014. The former UFC fighter who is ranked number 1 in Pancrase has had a tough but inspiring year.
Following dominating performances in his home country of Japan, Motonobu Tezuka was picked up by the UFC for their first Macau card as a late replacement for Kang Kyung-Ho. He made two tries of it before being released. However, at just 26 and still one of the best in his division in Japan, Tezuka has a wide open career in front of him.
MMA-in-ASIA spoke with Tezuka before his fight with Kim Soo-Chul about the recent ups and downs in his career and how it has affected his outlook and goals – all in a positive way.
MMA-in-ASIA: With many promotions available to you, why did you go with ROAD FC?
Tezuka: I think it’s one of the biggest promotions in Asia. They made me a good offer, and I really want to fight abroad.
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you think about your opponent Kim Soo-Chul?
Tezuka: I will go back to the Bibiano fight. I think the more Kim fights, the stronger he gets. I think he’s almost become a complete fighter.
MMA-in-ASIA: When you fought in Japan, you were very strong and went through many opponents easily. When you are picked up by the UFC, many thought your style would be perfect, because of your wrestling, strength, and top game. Were you surprised at the turn of events?
Tezuka: I usually train a lot. But before that fight I didn’t focus on the details. I think that’s where the problems came out, and I learned that I have to concentrate on certain details more. Each fight I have to pay more attention to the opponent and what I need to do for the fight.
MMA-in-ASIA: 2013 was a big year for you, with some high-profile fights, and yet some disappointments. What do you think when you look back on this period of your career?
Tezuka: I want to go forward. I want take all that I went through, mistakes and everything, and review it. It was all a good experience for me. It let me know what I have to do this year. I will keep reviewing it and learn from it.
To go back to that year, in the ring, I’m very good, like my fight with Taichi Nakajima. But then I had to fight in a cage, and I had no experience for that. Now I can tell I have to adjust to it, I realize I have to create a new Tezuka. So I take everything I went through, I’m going to use it, and move forward.
MMA-in-ASIA: That is surprising, because you seem to use the ring and corners to your advantage. What is the difference with the cage for you, the atmosphere or purely technical?
Tezuka: Well, with ropes, I can get my hand around an opponent and grip. But when I was in the cage, I found out I didn’t know how to do that and work against the cage and hold the fighter there. I felt like I had to bring the fighter away, back into the middle of the cage. So now I know that I have to learn this.
MMA-in-ASIA: So now you are facing a cage again, and by your own admission a fighter who is well-rounded, what have you been doing differently in your training? Will you be presenting a different style?
Tezuka: I’ve been getting into boxing very seriously. I want to show my own style, of course, but since I’m in Korea now and fighting abroad, I feel like I need to use all my techniques to get a victory.
MMA-in-ASIA: Where does your superhuman strength come from?
Tezuka: I concentrate everything when I am in a fight. And I gradually cut weight so I don’t lose strength before the fight. And I concentrate my eyes, I become a monster! [laughs]
MMA-in-ASIA: Now that you have been in the UFC, and many people say there can always be a second chance, what does your future hold?
Tezuka: I have thought about it. I have thought about if I want to go back to the UFC again, or if I want to be a champion. If I can be the ROAD FC champion, that would be a wonderful career for me.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you see ROAD FC talent is on the same level or above Japanese promotion talent?
Tezuka: [laughs] Well… I don’t have a lot of opportunities fighting in Japan, so I’m very happy to have a chance in ROAD FC.
MMA-in-ASIA: Who are some fighters you admire?
Tezuka: I started MMA when I was in high school. At the time, I was watching Bob Sapp and Cyril Abidi in K-1 and it seemed like a cool fighting game to me, really like a game. I also loved to watch Sudo Genki, Kid Yamamoto, everything I could see on TV. I admired many fighters.
MMA-in-ASIA: What about style-wise, who do you like?
Tezuka: Paulo Filho.
MMA-in-ASIA: You are young and have a long career ahead of you. When you see other fighters achieving a lot as they get older, does it make you think about how long your fight career can be? Do you have any plan?
Tezuka: I will try to fight as long as possible, even though I can’t guarantee anything.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your hobbies – not MMA related?
Tezuka: Hobbies? MMA, MMA, MMA! [laughs] Hmm. Karaoke. I’m very good at singing! And CrossFit. [laughs]
MMA-in-ASIA: Why do you make different ring entrance costumes?
Before the fight, I feel like I have to be entertaining. I just want to make my own way.