Rizin Confessions No. 27 shines the spotlight on lightweight competitor Yusuke Yachi, who has been booked opposite Johnny Case at Rizin Fighting Federation 14 on Dec. 31 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Yachi remains part of the Krazy Bee camp made famous by Norifumi Yamamoto, who died of cancer in September. While the YouTube program begins with some footage promoting the Darrion Caldwell-Kyoji Horiguchi title fight, the tone shifts to Yachi and his relationship with Yamamoto.
Yachi was on a five-fight winning streak before he lost to Luiz Gustavo Felix dos Santos at Rizin 12 in August -- around the same time Yamamoto announced via Instagram that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The loss was his first by knockout, and Yachi admits he hit “rock bottom” with it occurring a little less than a month before the death of his mentor and teammate.
In the “Confessions” episode, a tearful Yachi eulogizes Yamamoto: “I’ve now become a fighter on the big stage, just like you. I wish you could watch me make the sport popular once again.” He plans to beat Case and dedicate his win to “Kid.” The episode also includes footage from Yamamoto, who praises his understudy’s training and physique. “MMA fighters should all be like that,” he said. He later credits Yachi as being stronger than most Olympic athletes but admits his doubt about whether or not his training can be replicated by other fighters.
Case compiled a 4-2 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship prior to his release. He last fought to a majority draw with Natan Schulte at Professional Fighters League 9 in October. Yachi thinks their match could surface as the “Fight of the Night” on New Year’s Eve.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since the first UFC. You can follow Edward on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.