Shooto Pacific Rim Champion Yuta Nezu methodically mounted his way up the ladder to stand upon a 7-fight win streak.
The beginning of that streak saw him deftly outpoint both Wicky Nishiura and divisional kingpin Motunobu Tezuka enroute to claiming the Pac Rim title in a revenge match with Kota Onojima. So now Nezu sits at the top of the Shooto world rankings, just behind two UFC-signed fighters: Champ Kyoji Horiguchi and Ulka Sasaki.
Nezu did not get to this summit in a haphazard manner. Rung by rung he worked his way up the Shooto 60kg ladder with the skill of a seasoned tactician, until stints in VTJ gave him the exposure to seasoned fighters and gave a wider audience the exposure to him.
Now Nezu takes the next step in his career by fighting outside of Japan in Korea at ROAD FC. In an oddly paired match up with a 2-pro fight rookie, he will look to continue his streak of fortune.
Ahead of his match, ASIA MMA had the chance to speak with Nezu about his ascension, his game plan, and his goals for the future.
ASIA MMA: You are the Shooto Pac Rim Champ and and number two in the world, but the number one and the champion are now gone. So do you expect to fight for the Shooto world title soon?
Nezu: I don’t think so.
ASIA MMA: Why not?
Nezu: I defended the Pac Rim title once. Next I would have to give the title back to them. Then someone has to challenge for the Pac Rim title. Then I have to fight with the winner. It takes forever.
ASIA MMA: Do you plan to do that?
Yuta: Now I’m already number one in Shooto, there’s no point to it! [laughs]
ASIA MMA: What would you like to accomplish in ROAD FC?
Nezu: I have a one fight contract, so first I will focus on winning my fight, and then hopefully I can come back.
ASIA MMA: Are you considering a drop to flyweight?
Nezu: No. No plans. If I have to do it, I will need time to test myself.
ASIA MMA: When you fought Wicky and then Motonobu, that was the first time people could assess your level outside of Shooto. At the time Motonobu was the most powerful in the class in Japan. But you knew how to avoid his wrestling and to beat him. Did you prepare specifically for him?
Nezu: Of course I had a plan to face Motonobu. I always prepare for my fight.
ASIA MMA: What about your next opponent? He only has two fights. How did you prepare for him?
Nezu: I watched the fights, even though it’s only two fights, I watched them thousands of times. I understand how he moves.
In MMA, I want to be the guy that other people look up to!
ASIA MMA: How would you describe your style?
Nezu: Muay Thai style.
ASIA MMA: But you’re a very smart fighter, there has to be more to it than that.
Nezu: Hmm. I’m very aggressive. However, to climb up the ladder you have to be smart. So I understand how to work the two together.
ASIA MMA: What makes MMA so interesting to you, so interesting that you study it so hard?
Nezu: There are many components: jiujitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai. But there’s the transition between them, that’s what’s interesting to me.
ASIA MMA: What are your goals in MMA?
Nezu: To always improve. I don’t want to set a goal. However, I want to always improve.
ASIA MMA: Do you have any hobbies outside of MMA?
Nezu: Going out with my friends.
ASIA MMA: What about something else, like music?
Nezu: I like rock, Monoeyes.
ASIA MMA: What will your walkout song be?
Nezu: By Monoeyes. I like it!
ASIA MMA: Since you’re a thinking fighter, are there any particular fighters that you admire?
Nezu: Not in MMA. I like some Muay Thai fighters. But in MMA, I want to be the guy that other people look up to!
ASIA MMA: What about in Muay Thai? Who are the guys you like
Nezu: Samkor Kiatmontep. Saenchai.
ASIA MMA: What’s your favorite part of training?
Nezu: I like the sandbag, hitting and kicking it. And watching myself in the mirror! [laughs]