Yoshiyuki Yoshida: Preparing for the Biggest Fight of his Life at ONE Fighting Championship

2 years ago by in Japan Archives

September 3rd will be a date with destiny for Japanese mixed martial artist Yoshiyuki Yoshida. He has fought all over the world in a glorious career but his next bout, with Phil Baroni at One Fighting Championship, will be the most important fight of his life.

Yoshida once went almost three years unbeaten, winning eight consecutive fights and being picked up by the UFC after defeating Dan Hardy in the final of the Cage Force Welterweight Tournament.

His UFC career got off to a good start as he won two of his first three fights but that organization is nothing if not ruthless and Yoshida found himself unceremoniously cut after posting back to back losses.

He was still one of the most sought after Japanese fighters and Bellator wasted no time in securing his signature only for him to surprisingly lose to the then unbeaten welterweight prospect Chris Lozano with a swollen eye forcing his corner to throw in the towel.

The fourth degree Judo black belt from Tokyo took almost a year off after this loss but he bounced back in emphatic style, stopping Ferrid Kheder in the opening round of their fight in France earlier this year.

In 25 fights Kheder had never been stopped but Yoshida wasted little time in destroying that record, rolling back the years and forcing the referee to step in after unleashing a barrage of unanswered punches.

His reward for that impressive performance was almost instantaneous. The promoters of Asia’s biggest new mixed martial arts show were looking for a big name Japanese fighter to face Phil Baroni on their inaugural show and Yoshida’s win over Kheder put him firmly in the frame.

One Fighting Championship is an ambitious new MMA promotion. The first event will be witnessed by 12,000 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and a domestic TV deal with Media Corp in Singapore, an international TV deal with ESPN Star Sports and the decision to stream the show live on the internet for free means that the viewing audience will be the largest in MMA history.

With such a large audience this could be fantastic opportunity for the Japanese Judoka to revitalize his career by winning back to back fights and defeating a fellow legend in Baroni,

“I had offers from all over the world and my manager Shu Hirata was on the phone talking to promoters and matchmakers a minute after I defeated Khedder. I chose to fight for One Fighting Championship because it feel it has got a great potential as an MMA promotion. They also offered me a great opponent in Phil Baroni so it was an easy choice,” he said.

Industry experts have expressed surprised that the fight between Yoshida and Baroni didn’t happen sooner. The American was extremely successful in Japan, winning four out of six fights, and the two of them were also fighting for the UFC during the same period,

“I used to watch Phil fight in Pride and we both fought in the UFC so we could easily have ended up fighting each other sooner than this. I am actually happy that I can fight Phil in ONE FC, in Singapore, I feel this is our destiny,” he said.

The now defunct Pride was the most successful promotion in the history of Japanese MMA and many feel that One Fighting Championship is the natural successor to Pride. The reason for this is partly the Asian emphasis but is also due to the promotion’s decision to adopt the Pride rule set which was particularly popular with fight fans.

In One Fighting Championship soccer kicks and stomps will be allowed and there are far fewer rules than in most MMA promotions. The introduction of Pride rules will create much more exciting fights for the fans and encourage the fighters to be far more aggressive,

“I believe these rules are good for the fighters because they force us to improve on our techniques. With only a few prohibited moves I will have to be skilled in every part of the game so it’s going to be tough. Phil has already fought in PRIDE so he will have an advantage but I have been sparring every day with this set of rules in mind so I am ok with it,” he said.

Yoshida’s last few fights have all been on foreign soil and as he has established a truly global reputation he has been invited to fight for big shows in the US, Canada, France and now Singapore. Although he forged a reputation fighting in Japan he feels that his professional future currently lies elsewhere

“To me the major League of MMA is outside Japan now so I have no intention of fighting for the Japanese promotions. I want to test myself in a harder environment so I can improve more as a fighter which is why fighting for One Fighting Championship was such an obvious choice" he said.

MMA is a high pressure environment in which even by professional sporting standards there is an enormous emphasis on winning. As he reaches the twilight of his career Yoshida knows that this next fight will effectively decide his destiny. A win would make him the most marketable Japanese fighter in the world whereas a loss could be potentially catastrophic,

“Every fight is important and every fight is a hard fight for me but this is one fight I cannot lose. I am going all out to utilize all my skills, my heart and my power and I will win,” he said.

Events are scheduled to take place in countries all over Asia and Yoshida has an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of this expansion but first he has to get past the challenge of Baroni in Singapore on September 3rd.

For more information about ONE Fighting Championship visit: www.onefc.com.


Journalist specializing in MMA

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