With about a week away from his encounter with Fedor Emelianenko at Fight For Japan: Genki Desu Ka Omisoka 2011, it seems like not so many people are giving the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii a chance to get his hand raise at the Saitama Super Arena. After all, Ishii will mark his seventh professional MMA bout, currently holding a record of 4-1-1.
However, Ishii's career decisions speak for themselves. The twenty-five year old Judo phenom left his comfort zone in Japan to pursue a full-time Mixed Martial Arts career in the U.S. Ishii become a student of the game by training under patronage of the Muay Thai extraordinaire Ed Buckley, and touring between some of the most famous gyms on the west coast.
Ishii could be easily labeled as one of the most high-profile martial artists currently competing in the sport. The fight with Fedor could serve as a turning point for the decorated Judoka, who sets himself a clear goal of becoming one of the best MMA fighters on the planet. It's a chance Satoshi Ishii can't to miss, especially when fighting on his home turf in Japan.
We had an opportunity to speak to Satoshi Ishii, who shared his thoughts about the December 31st date with "The Last Emperor", and the preparations coming up to the fight.
Feel free to follow Satoshi Ishii on Twitter @SatoshiIshii.
You seem to have the majority of your camp for Fedor in United States. What can you tell about your camp, and training with the coach Ed Buckley?
A couple of years ago I decided to move to the United States to train full-time in MMA. With Southern California being the mecca for gyms and fighters I decided to move to Irvine, California. My main gym that I train at and represent is Mark Munoz's gym Reign Training Center. This gym provides me with all of the training I need to become a complete fighter in all areas of MMA - high level striking, wrestling, and grappling. One of the biggest benefits of training at Reign are the professional fighters that train there full-time. Along with the world class fighters that come through the gym for part of their training camps such as Wanderlei Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Babalu, Alistair Overeem, and Shogun Rua just to name a few.
I met my Muay Thai Coach Ed Buckley over a year ago at Reign Training Center. He has over 20+ years of experience in Muay Thai and understands MMA striking very well. When I first met Coach Ed he was working with Krzysztof Soszynski at the time and I asked if I could do some mittwork with him. From the first time we worked together I knew he was the coach for me. In the past year my striking has improved tremendously. Coach Ed has become my main coach who oversee's all of my training and directs all aspects of my training camps.
Many people say Fedor is a clear favorite against you. Do you like being the underdog, or it's something that gets in your head?
That is fine that people consider Fedor the favorite. And it does not bother me at all that everyone thinks that I am the underdog. Less pressure for me. He is the one who has the most to lose going 1-3 in his last 4 fights.
What in your opinion is your biggest advantage coming to this fight? How do you see your Judo skills coming in effect against Fedor Emelianenko?
I would not say that I have any real advantage over Fedor the man is a legend and has faced all styles. But I am confident wherever this fight goes. Whether we stand and trade or on the ground. As far as my Judo against him, well yes I do feel my Judo will play a big part of this fight if he decides to clinch with me.
Fedor has a famous fight with the multi-time Judo world champion Naoya Ogawa. What do you plan to do differently?
Ogawa was more like a pro-wrestler. If Fedor decides to clinch up I know I have the skills necessary to win in the clinch.
Fedor was on a three-fight losing streak before beating Jeff Monson in November. Do you think he's a different fighter since his days at PRIDE? Do you see any weaknesses in his game?
Fedor has been at this a very long time and has fought everyone. I respect his accomplishments and look up to him. It is a complete honor to step in the ring with him. No I do not think that he has become a different fighter since Pride. I think he has become a different fighter from his recent losses. He has become more tentative. You can see it in his fight with Jeff Monson. As for weaknesses he is a complete fighter. He can win fights both standing and on the ground.
You are only 25 years old (Happy birthday!), and already achieved a lot as a martial artist. What are your goals in MMA, and where do you see yourself as a fighter in 2012?
Well thank you. Yes I have accomplished my ultimate goal in Judo and that was to win the Gold Medal in Judo at the 2008 Olympics for Japan. But now I have moved onto a new sport and set new goals. My main goal is to make it into the Ultimate Fighting Championships and ultimately become a champion.
You will be the eighth Japanese fighter to compete against Fedor. For you as an Olympic Gold medallist, is it also about making the Japanese fans proud by successfully representing your country?
Having the Japanese fans support means everything to me. They are the ones who supported me throughout my career in Judo from the beginning all the way through me winning the Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics. As a Japanese fighter I still want to make my Japanese fans proud along with the rest of my fans around the world.
What American fans should know about the Mixed Martial Arts fighter Satoshi Ishii?
For one they should know that I am very driven and goal oriented. I dedicate my life to my goals. Aside from that I am a very private person. I listen to raggae and do a lot of reading in my spare time. And yes ladies "I am single". HAHAHA
Your prediction for the fight with Fedor Emelianenko? Submission, Decision or KO/TKO?
I feel that I will win this fight via decision. I am no longer just a Judoko. Fans will see how far my striking, wrestling, and grappling have come since I started MMA.
Thank you so much and good luck from LowKick.com staff and fans. Would you like to mention any sponsors / thank anyone?
First I would like to thank LowKick for the interview and also your photographer Scott Hirano for the great pictures. I would like to thank Mark Munoz, Krzysztof Soszynski, Brett Cooper, Emanuel Newton and everyone at Team Reign and Black House Gym that has helped me get ready for this fight. Last but not least I would like to also thank Coach Ed Buckley for all of his time.