Tatsuya Kawajiri Nearly Retired; Rejuvenated, He’s Taking Aim at UFC Champ Jose Aldo

January 4, 2014
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Tatsuya KawajiriFollowing a long and storied career, competing mainly in his home country of Japan, Tatsuya Kawajiri nearly called it quits in 2013.

Fighting professionally since the year 2000, Kawajiri has competed at the highest levels of the sport in Japan, working his way through promotions such as Shooto, Pride, and Dream.

But as the mixed martial arts seen dwindled in his homeland, so did the opportunities to fight, leaving the decorated veteran frustrated. That’s when the UFC came calling, asking Kawajiri to make his Octagon debut at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 34 in Singapore.

Kawajiri faced a game opponent in Sean Soriano, who defended several of the Japanese stalwart’s early takedown attempts, but he wouldn’t be denied, eventually securing several takedowns and his first victory in the Octagon. He submitted Soriano via rear naked choke 50 seconds into the second round.

Kawajiri seemed a little out of sorts, and later admitted that he was.

“UFC jitters? Well, that’s what it was today. It was hard fight,” when he was asked about feeling a little shaky in his first trip to the Octagon.

His last fight was in December of 2012 and he had been contemplating retirement, so it’s no surprise that he might have the infamous jitters that strikes many UFC first-timers.

“This was my first fight in almost one year and this past one year, I even thought about quitting MMA a couple of times,” Kawajiri said at the UFC Singapore post-fight press conference. “That’s why I was very nervous.”

His UFC debut out of the way, thoughts of retirement are in the rearview mirror.

“This was the first fight for me in over a year, so when I enter the Octagon, I was so nervous I almost died of a heart attack,” he continued.

“I had a few injuries and my fights didn’t get confirmed for a long time, so I almost lost the motivation, but now I’m in the UFC. So I trained for this fight harder than I ever did before. I’m going to keep doing that and I’d like to show to the fans that this is not the Kawajiri that you know yet. You’re going to see a better Kawajiri.”

Looking forward, Kawajiri knows he can’t jump to the head of the line, but his goals are as lofty as those of any other fighter. He wants to be a UFC champion.

“I’m looking at this fight as just the beginning. So I’m looking to go into the mainland America and fight in bigger pay-per-view shows,” he said, laying out his future plans.

“If it’s possible I would love to fight the champion Jose Aldo immediately, but I’m sure there is orders I have to follow, so I want to fight some Top 10 fighters.”

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  • No disrespect but you’re going to retire before you fight Aldo.

  • Joeyjoejoejrshabidu

    *mixed martial arts scene (not seen)

    • Big Tuna

      Not “seen”

  • Big Tuna

    He is no threat to the division

  • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

    that’s where MMA fans come from …
    Kawajiri had a very good win the last night, if he was Sonnen or Volkmann or Lindland or a wrestler from Alabama those fans now would celebrate the victory instead of criticize the fighter to be not top 10 material (based on what?)

    • shakejunt

      based on the fact that he was getting outstruck by a very green prospect and his desperation takedown attempts left him gasping for air at the end of round 1. yes, he got the sub in round 2, but there are quite a few guys at fw that have the ability to neutralize his gameplan.

      • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

        uh? Lentz and Elkins have not much a different fight style and both are top 10

        • shakejunt

          yes but if he were to fight either one, i think they’d maintain top control for 15 min. not sold on kawajiri as a possible contender yet, hope he proves me wrong.

          • Stefano ‘Zwonimir’ Sega Nogaro

            yeah of course he still had fought not a top 15 UFC FW and he’s pretty new in the FW division and he’s already 35 with a lot of fights behind him, he’s not in his prime anymore but he’s the guy that for example steamrolled a bigger Josh Thomson and always using his wrestling, I think between 2005-2010 he was easily one of the best wrestlers in MMA