by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Just prior his UFC 104 fight against Anthony Johnson, Japanese Judoka Yoshiyuki “Zenko” Yoshida spoke with MMAWeekly.com about the fight and his recent training with Greg Jackson and his team in New Mexico.
MMAWeekly.com: Preparing for this fight you’ve been working in New Mexico… talk about the camp you’ve been working with and how that’s helped you to prepare for Anthony Johnson.
Yoshiyuki Yoshida: For this fight I actually came to New Mexico after ADCC, so I am only here for two weeks. But even in two weeks, training at the Greg Jackson’s helps me a lot. I get to spar with top fighters, get to work with top coaches, and I must stress here that the conditioning program here is just unbelievable. So I trained at Yoshida Dojo, Keishukai, and Tokyo Yellowman’s for about a month and half and doing a fine-tuning in the States.
MMAWeekly: Working with so many top level fighters at Jackson’s, even in your own weight class, how much better do you feel going into this fight?
Yoshida: For sure, training with all these top fighters would give me a confidence and comfortability of fighting in the States. I know I can square with anyone at the welterweight, and also when I go to the show I would know many fighters, so this whole experience makes me feel like I belong there.
MMAWeekly: Has training in America helped to focus at all or is it tough being away from home for so long?
Yoshida: You know what, not really. It’s almost the other way around. For the last fight versus Wolff I did spend two full months at the Jackson’s and this time only two weeks, but both times I felt just fine. In fact I like training here and prepare and take a quick flight to Vegas or L.A. or wherever I need to go to fight. If I come all the way from Japan then it would give me more pressure because I am going to America to fight, but training here at the Jackson’s and go to fight is like a taking a train to fight just like I used to do in Japan. So I am feeling really comfortable with this whole situation.
MMAWeekly: Anthony Johnson is a very big, strong welterweight… how do you combat a fighter of his size?
Yoshida: This is a difficult question to answer without giving away my strategies, so I am going to say this, I am preparing for any situation and that means I can win on either knockout or submission.
MMAWeekly: Your background in judo seems like it could help you in a fight against a wrestler like Anthony Johnson… do you think your Judo could come into play in this fight?
Yoshida: Well, this is MMA, so of course I will use my judo skill, but that is just one of the many skills I am going to use Saturday.
MMAWeekly: Do you think there are weaknesses in Anthony’s game that you can expose with your submission and grappling background as well?
Yoshida: Sure. I did see all of his UFC fights on DVD, and I do hear what he has been working on and all, so I have good strategies for this fight.
MMAWeekly: Anthony loves to stand and strike and he throws a lot of big punches and kicks. How far do you feel your own stand-up game has progressed and do you feel like you could strike with him?
Yoshida: Well, again, this is MMA, so, of course, I will stand and strike against Johnson. But also I am good at grappling a bigger man, so if I need to close the distance then I will and then this fight will go to the ground.
MMAWeekly: Coming off of a big win in your last fight and with this fight being the lead on the pay-per-view, do you believe this is a huge opportunity to make a big move in the welterweight division?
Yoshida: Every fight in the UFC is an opportunity. And this also means a loss can be a devastating factor in my career in the Octagon, so right I am just thinking about winning one fight at a time.
MMAWeekly: Did you have any sponsors or training partners you’d like to thank?
Yoshida: I always appreciate the opportunity Greg Jackson has provided me in New Mexico. I am a different fighter since I came here earlier this year, and I feel like I am part of the family here, and I really thank Greg and the entire team for that. And that is Rashad Evans, Joe Stevenson, Carlos Condit, Cub Swanson, and everyone.
Also I do like to thank my training partners in Japan and that is Hidehiko Yoshida, Makoto Takimoto, and Michihiro Omigawa.
Lastly I would like to thank Sprawl for sticking with me from the day one, and I am grateful for Affliction to make a decision to work with me, and Haybusa for a continuing support, No Gi who also sponsored me in the ADCC has been very kind, and Fighter Warehouse, again, for a continuing support. I also would like to thank Grillz, a jewelry shop in Tokyo, Naka-ya, the maker of Japanese traditional festival goods, and A-Pop the designers group founded by Noboru Asahi, my master at Tokyo Yellow Mans.