Though he feels he was not Vale Tudo Japan’s first choice for their recent eight-man flyweight tournament, Idaho based “Little” Czar Sklavos has made the most of his participation.
In two tournament bouts, Sklavos has defeated his more experienced opponents and has made his way to the finals on Oct. 4 in Tokyo, Japan.
“I was kind of an afterthought going into the tournament,” Sklavos told MMAWeekly.com. “I don’t think I was initially planned to be in it, but just happened to know people who were going from the US (to VTJ). They needed an extra guy and I was able to get in.”
Looking back on his wins over Mamoru Yamaguchi and Ryuichi Miki in the tournament so far, Sklavos feels he’s had strong showings against two very tough fighters.
“My first fight against Yamaguchi I was able to get him down and secure a choke fairly quickly in the first round,” said Sklavos. “He’s been around and is a good fighter, so to be able to beat him the way I did, I was very happy with that.
“My next fight against Miki, I really wanted to finish him because throughout his whole career he’s never been finishes. I wasn’t able to seal the deal, but I feel like I controlled that match. He wasn’t able to take me down and I thought I hit him significantly more times than he hit me.”
For Sklavos, winning the tournament could connect him to VTJ’s beginnings and its initial star.
“It’s kind of cool because in my eyes, Rickson (Gracie) was in the VTJ back in the day and won it; and I train under Pedro Sauer, which is a Rickson affiliate,” said Sklavos. “It’s kind of cool for me 20 years later to compete in this tournament and follow in Rickson’s footsteps.”
In the tournament finals on Oct. 4, Sklavos (10-3) will be facing Hiromasa Ogikubo (12-3-2) in what could be one of the best flyweight bouts of the year.
“I’ve got to keep him outside, work on my wrestling, push the pace and don’t let him rest and don’t let him think – keep him on his heels,” said Sklavos of Ogikubo.
“That’s what I like to do – get his back and work for the choke – because in my opinion, the choke is the best way to finish a guy. If he goes to sleep, there’s no debate about a decision or anything like that – I don’t like to leave any question.”
While he might be the last person anyone would have thought to have continued a legacy set forth before him two decades before in VTJ, Sklavos is on the verge of doing just that, and with it begin to build his own legacy.
“It’ll be a great honor to win this tournament, and then hopefully with this deal that VTJ has with going with the UFC, maybe I’ll get noticed by them and be able to get a fight with them at some point and time,” said Sklavos.
“I think if you’re fighting and you don’t want to be the champion in your division, you’re wasting your time. So I’m just clawing my way up the ladder as quick as I can.”