Satoshi Ishii has already fought some of the mixed martial arts’ biggest names since making his professional debut more than six years ago.
While wins over faded luminaries such as Tim Sylvia, Pedro Rizzo and Jeff Monson are nice, the Olympic judo gold medalist has come up short in his biggest tests, falling twice to Mirko Filipovic and once against Fedor Emelianenko, with all three losses coming via knockout or stoppage.
It’s possible that, even if Ishii had bested Emelianenko or “Cro Cop,” the victories might not have resonated as much as they should have, since they all took place in his home country of Japan. That’s why, when Ishii faces Quinton Jackson in a 215-pound catch-weight bout in the Bellator 157 “Dynamite 2” headliner on June 24 in St. Louis, he will have designs on raising his profile with an upset victory.
“He is a very big name in the United States and Japan also. I want to become famous in the United States,” Ishii told Sherdog.com. “I think this is a big chance for me, so it’s a very important fight to me. I’m excited, and I must win the fight.”
Bellator 157 will mark both Ishii’s debut with the California-based promotion and his first MMA bout in the U.S. All of his previous 20 fights were contested in Japan. While Jackson is no longer the fighter who captured UFC light heavyweight gold and won over Japanese fans in Pride, he enters the bout on a four-bout winning streak and will be a significant favorite come fight night.
Ishii says he hopes to eventually become a Bellator champion, but in order to do that, he knows that he must stay out of Jackson’s wheelhouse when they clash.
“I’m more of a grappling fighter and he’s more of a striking fighter, so that’s why this is a better way, the ground game,” Ishii said. “I can fight him striking, also, because I work on my striking and it is coming along recently. Now, I’m a complete fighter. It depends on how I feel at the beginning of the fight.”
A few years back, Ishii contacted Gegard Mousasi in hopes of training with the Netherlands-based UFC middleweight. Their relationship has flourished since then.
“Good friend, like a brother,” Ishii said of Mousasi. “He helps me a lot.”
Even with the experience his has acquired against big-name opposition back home, Ishii is expecting butterflies when he stands across the cage from Jackson, and for good reason: Ishii wants to be known as more than just another “Rampage” victim in the eyes of American fans.
“Of course I get nervous because this is a big fight, my first fight in the United States, and I want to become famous in the United States,” he said. “I’m very nervous, but the nerves make me more focused and sharp and excited. So, it is a good thing for me.”