If you would have told Darren Uyenoyama just a few short years ago he’d not only be an active MMA fighter, but be in the UFC defeating the likes of former top-ranked Japanese star Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto at UFC on Fox, he wouldn’t have believed you.
“To be completely honest, I wouldn’t have thought it was really possible,” said the former fight gear rep. “I remember tagging along with MMAWeekly.com to fighter get-togethers and that was the high point of what I was doing at the time.
“Just getting to train alongside these guys, I never thought I’d actually be in there in the cage fighting. In regards to Kid Yamamoto, actually having a victory over him hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Uyenoyama’s unconventional road to the UFC was made even more surprising when he made an unsuccessful bid for this season of The Ultimate Fighter and was told he needed to pad his record to be considered. He ended up having no fights in the interim.
“I had been cornering Chris Cariaso at a few of his UFC events, and I would talk to Sean Shelby and let him know that if they ever wanted me to fight for them that they should call me and I wouldn’t say no,” said Uyenoyama.
“I’m sure they get that all the time from everyone, (but I got the call and) it just kind of went from there.”
Being a heavy underdog to Yamamoto, Uyenoyama knew he’d have to have to be willing to face his opponent’s strong points if he was going to have any chance of success.
“I wanted to engage with Kid,” said Uyenoyama. “Of course, I didn’t want to have long punching exchanges with him, but I was willing to get punched in the face to take him down, and that’s what I did.
“I knew he was a strong wrestler; and he did take me down in the beginning; but I had confidence in my jiu-jitsu that even if I ended up on my back I would work really hard and eventually when I did get on top I would make him pay.”
After weathering the first round, Uyenoyama appeared to take Yamamoto out of his game plan, eventually turning things in his favor for the later rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.
“I think some of the hits I took early in the fight kind of made him give up on the idea of knocking me out in the third round, which eventually lead to me winning the fight,” said Uyenoyama.
With such a big win under his belt at 135 pounds, Uyenoyama is now looking forward to making waves in a proposed lower weight class in the coming year.
“I’m really anxious for the UFC to open up a 125-pound division like they’ve mentioned before,” he said. “I’d like to fight the 135’ers that are intending to go to 125, like Demetrious Johnson, just so when that does open up, I’m already in position to making an argument to get the best fights in that division.”
As Uyenoyama points out, he’s a big fan of Johnson and feels the two would only make for a naturally intriguing match-up overseas once he’s cleared from his 60-day medical suspension.
“There has been some mention of fighting in Japan in February,” said Uyenoyama, “and I think maybe Demetrious and I would be a good fight in Japan because people are aware of him and his coach Matt Hume there and I do have a little bit of a following there.”