More than a year has passed since the MMA world has seen the Japanese-born, Brazil-based Goiti Yamauchi in action. Injuries led to cancelled fights, and before he knew it, 13 months had gone by. Fortunately for Yamauchi, his latest training camp was free of setbacks, clearing the way for his return to Bellator MMA competition.
Yamauchi will let his limbs fly at against former Pancrase champion Isao Kobayashi at Bellator 144 on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Kobayashi has lost just once in the last five years, establishing himself as one of Japan’s most-sought-after exports.
“I think he is a tough opponent, a good opponent,” Yamauchi told Sherdog.com. “I am going to be ready and at my best when I meet him, for sure.”
Kobayashi, who will make his Bellator debut, has fought exclusively in his native Japan. Competing on American soil for the first time will present a new set of challenges for the 26-year-old featherweight, and Yamauchi believes it gives him an edge.
“I’m very comfortable in the U.S.A., and I think I have an advantage over him because of it,” he stated. “I don’t really care about his accomplishments because I am ready to prove that I am better than him.”
Yamauchi was not concerned with potential rust, as he prepares to climb into the cage for the first time since he submitted Martin Stapleton with a rear-naked choke at Bellator 125 in September 2014. He believes his injury-plagued year was a blessing in disguise, because it allowed him to reflect on where he stands and to heal some old wounds.
“I’ve been out for more than a year, but I feel as though I am stronger, physically and mentally,” said Yamauchi, who has won 13 of his last 14 fights. “It actually was a good time to rest and to think about my career, my life, and now I feel as though I am at my best I’ve ever been.”
Yamauchi has proven to be deadly on the ground. He has racked up 10 wins via rear-naked choke, which accounts for 80 percent of his submissions in MMA. Yamauchi admits he looks for his favorite maneuver any chance he gets. Still, Yamauchi’s efforts have gone largely unnoticed by American audiences.
“I don’t care about those things,” he said. “I will get the recognition when I become the world champion, but I’m not interested in being recognized. All I’m focused on is my next fight and eventually becoming the champion. I’m not looking for the fame and money; I only care about my wins. I don’t care about my legacy or what people think of me.”