Sherdog: Did you participate in any karate competitions in Brazil?
Yoshizo: I couldn’t compete in the Brazilian national championships because I’m Japanese. But in 1970, I was invited to participate in the Champions of the Champions Cup, where I beat five state champions from Minas, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Bahia. In the final, I defeated the Brazilian national champion, Caribe, who was very famous at that time. Back then, the competition was much more violent; the goal was to take down the opponent.
Sherdog: We see a lot of fighters win championships and take 20- or 30-day vacations. But Lyoto, after nine months of training without break, could not even take an eight-day vacation. On the second day, he called his trainer and said he wanted to train.
Yoshizo: Lyoto likes the routine of training. He likes to train every day. His goal is to always improve, not only to defend his belt but to test new techniques; that’s very important in martial arts.
Sherdog: What about urine therapy. How did you start doing that?
Yoshizo: Actually, this technique was used in China and India a long time ago. I started doing that after reading a book about a Japanese doctor who was in World War II. When the medicines ran out, he told the soldiers to drink their urine, and it worked as a vaccine. I started doing that three years ago, and it’s working fine. I never get sick anymore. Lyoto is doing the same, and he also likes the results.
Sherdog: Did your master send you to Brazil to make karate popular there?
Yoshizo: No, I wanted to go because I love to train. If I go two days without karate training, I get mad. When I got here, I received some support from Japanese friends who helped me financially so I could take care of the academy. There are other Japanese masters in Brazil who faced the same situation. Later, I was able to open my own academy in Belem.
Sherdog: Is it true that you took care of Conde Koma’s bones?
Yoshizo: About 30 years ago, there was a heavy rain in Belem that destroyed Mitsuyo Maeda Koma’s grave in the cemetery. His friend, Sakaeoti, who was about 80 years old at the time, told me about it. He always told me many stories about Mitsuyo, about how much he helped Japanese people who came to Brazil. Sakaeoti and I went to the cemetery, and I collected Koma’s bones and cleaned them. With the support of Kokushikan University, which rebuilt Koma’s tomb, we buried his bones again in a new grave paid for by the university.
Sherdog: Koma was a great fighter and was the man who taught jiu-jitsu to the Gracies. If it were not for him, we probably wouldn’t have MMA or the UFC. Do you believe his Samurai spirit may be helping Lyoto in the Octagon?
Yoshizo: My family and I believe in spiritualism and reincarnation. Koma is probably helping Lyoto.
Sherdog: Having spent 70 days with Satoshi Ishii, do you believe he can become an MMA champion?
Yoshizo: I can’t tell. He’s an excellent athlete. He never gets tired. I think he’ll adapt really fast to MMA. In the beginning, he was getting beaten badly by Lyoto, but after two months, he improved a lot. I corrected his posture, taught him how to walk in the ring. Sometimes during training, he cried, not because he was tired but because of the high humidity near the Amazon. He has the Samurai spirit and always finished every exercise I gave to him. I’ve heard he visited and trained at the Renzo Gracie academy in New York and people liked him.
Sherdog: What do you expect from Lyoto’s next challenge against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104? How long do you expect Lyoto to keep the title?
Yoshizo: I can’t say anything because it depends on him. He has to train and believe because he’s going to face Shogun, who’s also strong and well-prepared. Lyoto’s preparation for this fight will be very important. He needs to be strong, not only physically and technically; his spirit and his mind also need to be well-prepared.
Sherdog: Do you think Shogun will be a tougher opponent than Rashad Evans?
Yoshizo: No, Rashad was much more difficult and not just because of the technique. Against him, we were also fighting against the pressure of the crowd. He was the local champion. But, for sure, Shogun is a very tough opponent who will give us a lot of work studying his game.
Sherdog: What was the party like here in Belem when Lyoto returned with the belt?
Yoshizo: It was a big party. The mayor even invited us to have breakfast with him. Last week, we were invited by the Japanese consulate to have dinner with the Japanese community in Belem. It’s very good to have my son so recognized, as long as it doesn’t bother his training. If the event doesn’t bother his training, he will go. I already explained to him that a lot of people want this belt, so he has to be in great shape always.
Sherdog: Besides your son, who do you like to see fight in MMA?
Yoshizo: I like [Antonio Rodrigo] “Minotauro” [Nogueira] very much, because even when he’s on the ground, he can solve the situation very calmly. He’s a real fighter. Standing up, I like Anderson Silva, because he plays with the opponent. He’s a showman.
Sherdog: How do you think a fight between Lyoto and Anderson Silva would play out?
Yoshizo: It’s hard to say. They have a similar style. It would depend on how well-prepared each one would be. I can’t say who would win.