In the short list of contenders in line to face UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, most would put Chad Mendes or Hatsu Hioki near the top.
Mendes has seemingly solidified his place as the No. 1 contender, but former Sengoku fighter Hatsu Hioki will try to stake his own claim when he makes his long awaited UFC debut this weekend at UFC 137 against George Roop.
A winner of four fights in a row and nine out of his last 10, Hioki brings a fierce reputation with him to the Octagon, but ultimately he still has to go out there and perform. Admittedly, it’s something that some other transplants from Japan and other organizations have struggled to do in their first fight in the UFC.
“I think there are some reasons; rules, cage, different culture,” Hioki said when speaking to MMAWeekly.com about why some fighters don’t do well when debuting in the UFC.
“But a fight is a fight. There should be a fighter who is strong no matter where he fights.”
It’s that no excuses attitude that Hioki carries with him at all times. As he gets ready to face a very tough challenge in former Ultimate Fighter competitor George Roop, there are journalists and some fighters who believe Hioki could be next in line for a title shot.
Hioki, however, can’t look past Roop because one misstep and he becomes another in a long list of hyped fighters that couldn’t seem to figure out how to adapt for their inaugural trip to the Octagon.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to show my fighting skills to the world,” Hioki said. “I know George Roop is a good fighter, but if I do what I’m capable of, I win.”
To prepare for his UFC debut, Hioki has done everything in his power to get ready for what lies ahead in a very deep and dangerous 145-pound division.
Hioki worked a few months back at the Tristar gym in Montreal alongside UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, and has worked at other gyms in the United States as well in the past, so his acclimation to the fight culture and style in the U.S. shouldn’t be much of a shock.
But for all the rankings and praise laid at Hioki’s feet, he’s not really paying attention to any of it. The greatest accomplishment for him is to go out and win, not make the top of anyone’s rankings.
“It’s good to be ranked as one of the best fighters, but it’s just someone’s opinion,” Hioki stated. “I don’t care about that.”
If Hioki gets past Roop at UFC 137, he could make the case to be the No. 1 contender in the division, but don’t ask him where he feels like he fits in.
“I don’t know,” Hioki responded when asked about his spot as a contender at featherweight. “Please, tell me.”
Hioki’s job is to go out there and win and if that goes accordingly, then everything else will fall in line. The top five ranked featherweight will attempt to do just that at UFC 137 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.