Tatsuya Kawajiri (right) seeks to avenge a 2006 loss to Gilbert Melendez. | Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com
If Tatsuya Kawajiri is anxious about his impending Strikeforce lightweight title showdown with champion Gilbert Melendez, he certainly isn’t showing it.
Kawajiri has met Melendez once before, and the American came out on top via unanimous decision in their 2006 meeting in Japan. On April 9, the rematch will sport two noticeable differences from their first encounter. First, the bout takes place stateside, under the unified rules, at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. Second, Kawajiri will find himself fighting inside a cage for the first time in his career.
A former Shooto 154-pound champion and Pride veteran, Kawajiri is apparently unconcerned with the differences between fighting in a cage and a ring.
“I have been training as usual, with no specific training geared toward fighting in the cage,” Kawajiri said during Friday’s Strikeforce media conference call.
A similar attitude was presented by Kawajiri’s countryman, Shinya Aoki, before his one-sided defeat to Melendez at Strikeforce “Nashville” one year ago. Regardless of that result, Kawajiri claims that his primary concern is representing himself, not the whole of Japanese MMA.
“I’m always fighting for myself, and this fight is just between me and Gilbert,” Kawajiri said. “But, I do have to meet the expectations of my fans and my friends, so I am looking forward to seeing my friends, fans and family smiling after fight.”
Despite Kawajiri’s focus on the fight, the lightweight was forced to alter his training camp in light of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11. Though the fighter reportedly could not train for a week after the disaster, Kawajiri says that the support received from friends and family helped him adapt and finish his camp.
Now, little is left to do but fight a man who has already beaten him. According to Kawajiri, fans will see a new and improved “Crusher,” and that will be the difference in the fight.
“I feel that I am a [better] MMA fighter [now], and I will be able to fight a smarter fight this time. I’m obviously training to become a better MMA fighter every day, so that’s what I’m looking forward to in my second fight against Gilbert.”