You can, however, count UFC newcomer Eiji Mitsuoka as a fan of cage.
The veteran fighter stepped up on short notice to fill a slot vacated by George Sotiropoulos. The Australian fighter was injured and had to step out of his UFC 144 fight with Pride legend Takanori Gomi this weekend in Japan.
Mitsuoka has been a mainstay of the Japanese fight scene for many years, including multiple fights under the Pride banner, but he’s always been an advocate for fighting in the cage.
“Remember the Japanese MMA fans call him ‘Child of the Cage’ because he made a pro debut in the KOTC (King of the Cage) then fought many cage fights under the unified rules,” Shu Hirata, Mitsuoka’s manager told MMAWeekly.com. “That means he is more comfortable in the cage throwing elbow shots to the head instead of fighting in the ring.”
With the UFC in town, the typical rules of Japanese MMA have been changed. Fighters will be allowed to use elbows on the ground, no knees to the head of a grounded opponent, and of course they will be fighting in the Octagon, not a four-sided ring.
To say that Mitsuoka is excited about those new weapons would be an understatement.
“I like cage, I like elbows, so I am actually very happy for these changes,” Mitsuoka told MMAWeekly.com in Japan.
While the rules may be a little different in the UFC, Mitsuoka will be squaring off with a very familiar face when he debuts in the Octagon. Greeting him will be former Pride champion Takanori Gomi, who looks to regain some of the legend he first formed in Japan when he returns home this weekend.
Since coming to the UFC, Gomi has not been able to recapture the form that once saw him as the top ranked lightweight in the entire sport. Mitsuoka knows that despite a couple of losses in a row, Gomi is still just as dangerous as ever.
Like a wounded animal, Gomi will definitely be on guard when they square off at UFC 144.
“He knocked out many fighters with one shot. One punch to the chin, one punch to the body, sometime one knee shot; I clearly remember those scenes,” said Mitsuoka.
Being familiar with Gomi’s style and history is also a good thing for Mitsuoka, who stepped up and took this fight on just a month’s notice.
For him, it all came down to a chance to fight in the UFC, a promotion he believes could help revive MMA in Japan and help him achieve his lifelong dream.
“From measuring from reactions of my friends and teammates, it’s pretty huge. Even bigger than when I was fighting for Japanese MMA promotions. So I think it will be the same in a bigger picture,” Mitsuoka said about the UFC coming to Japan.
“This is it for me. It’s a compilation, a culmination of what I have been aiming for all my career.”