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Exclusive: Yushin Okami Talks Title Shots, Training Partners and Becoming a Star in the UFC

By Cage Potato Japanese Correspondent, Stewart Fulton

(“Thunder” is currently in holding pattern awaiting word of his next opponent.)

We visited Yushin Okami at RJW (Real Japan Wrestling, part of the Wajutsu Keishukai network) where he trains several days a week to interview him and watch him take the MMA class with some of the resident professional and amateur fighters.

RJW is located in a very unlikely spot – a residential area of Tokyo on a converted floor of a condominium, rather hard to find for anyone unfamiliar with Tokyo or the Japanese language.

A foam matted area and a marked wrestling-matted area with padded walls is about all there is. No heavy bags; no fancy equipment. Just the smell of old sweat barely masked by disinfectant. The cleaning of the mats is done by all of those who train that day after practice, and this is the norm for all martial arts dojos of any discipline across Japan.

Okami was happy to have the opportunity to speak to the international media. His English is almost non-existent, and he is much less known in his own country than abroad, making it a rare occasion for him to speak publicly to the international audience.

He was very adamant about his position in terms of a title shot against Anderson Silva, confident that he will take the middleweight belt and completely uninterested in the talk of a GSP versus Silva match up. In fact, he expressed his disdain at the notion of anyone switching weight class and getting an automatic title shot.

How is your conditioning at the moment?

At the moment I don’t know when I’ll be fighting, but physically I’m keeping in good shape. I haven’t heard whom I’ll be fighting but I want to fight Anderson Silva so I’m preparing for that.

Do you have a different game plan for Anderson Silva?

I’m increasing my strength and speed, but since I don’t know when the fight will happen I’ll work on the finer points later.

What did you think of the Silva vs. Belfort fight?

I traveled to Las Vegas to watch it live. I was surprised Silva finished it with that kick and I thought he was strong, but watching that fight made me want to fight.

How did you feel when you knew you wouldn’t get the title match next?

Well, I’ve heard various things, but instead of GSP I want to fight Anderson, beat him, and I believe I’ll become a new star in the UFC. I’m concentrating and training for that fight now.

If the Silva vs. GSP happens, how do you think it will go?

Well, there is the problem of weight…and GSP will go for the takedown. But the middleweight division is for the fighters who are there, and have been fighting there, so I don’t think there’s much point in that fight. Basically, I haven’t really thought about it because Anderson and I are top of the middleweight division, so it should be left to us.

How often do you train with Yoshihiro Akiyama?

At the moment we train about twice a week, mainly sparring.

Have you trained with Riki Fukuda?

Yes, before he fought in the UFC we trained together. We are the same age and he’s a very mentally strong fighter so I’d like to see him rise up in the UFC.

What was your first impression of training in the U.S.?

I trained at Team Quest and Xtreme Couture. There are many bigger guys there and MMA as a sport is really evolving. Until now in Japan most training has been separate: striking, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, but in America MMA training – a mix of everything – has really developed. So, I’ve tried to absorb the good points from there and mix them with the good points of training in Japan.

With the downturn in MMA shows in Japan now, what do you think will happen in the future?

The culture of martial arts in Japan runs very deep, and although the popularity seems low at the moment it will never disappear so I’m not worried. It’ll rebound. American MMA is huge now so in comparison it seems like Japanese MMA is on a downturn but I’m really not that worried. There are a lot of people who feel passionate about MMA so we’ll see some good fights here and I want to do everything I can to represent Japan in the UFC.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to watch movies and eat tasty food. Recently I’ve been eating raw (beef) liver!

Do you have a message for Anderson Silva?

Anderson is the top of the middleweight division and I am coming for the belt. I promise you’ll see him fall and I’ll be the new champion. Thank you for your support!

Stewart Fulton is a transplanted Scotsman, professional fighter and writer who has lived and trained in Japan since 2001. His blog, gives the inside view of Japan’s MMA scene from an outsider’s perspective. After moving to Japan Stewart began training with the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba and Nobohiko Takada at the renowned Takada Dojo in Tokyo, but has since moved on to Team Catch. He currently resides with his wife, Nayumi and young son, Akeem in Koshigaya-shi, Saitama.

Follow Stewart on Twitter at:

Cagepotato Comments

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Dagnut- March 25, 2011 at 3:56 am
I didn't insinuate he doesn't deserve a shot, I just don't think he's previous fights show him to be the man to beat Silva.
We all watched the Munoz fight? that was like 6 months ago...has he had a huge leap forward since then? If he has fair play I'm not knocking the guy just dubious
djp1988- March 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm
Okami has more than earned a shot at the title.
jimbonics- March 24, 2011 at 11:59 am
Those saying Okami hasn't beat anyone are delusional.
Smitty- March 24, 2011 at 11:50 am
^^^ Not only that, but we never got one blog, one pic, one video, one announcement........or did we, and I just missed it???? I've only heard rumors.
Smitty- March 24, 2011 at 11:47 am
offtopic 2, but I just wanted to say sorry to everyone who gave Karma money, knowing damn well he didn't have ANY professional fights, Dana wouldn't let anyone that had anything to do with CP anywhere near TUF, and that even if he did make it, his skills weren't as "polished" as they needed to be to get by his first opponent.
canaduh- March 24, 2011 at 10:23 am
offtopic i know but i just wanted to say sorry to karma, i was watching a little thing about the tuf tryouts and dana said they're not even considering guys who are 3-1, then later said if your name wasn't called it's probably due to your records
PERPATRAITOR- March 24, 2011 at 10:13 am
Edit. He works on his timing and distance in the beginning.
PERPATRAITOR- March 24, 2011 at 10:12 am
I figured out how to bet Anderson. You have to rush him at the very start and go to finish. He always works on his timing and distance odd the bat. Anderson always needs his opponent to strike at him so he can time his counter attacks. So if you either bum rush him early with a takedown or maybe throw some off speed strikes at first, it would make a huge difference.
mDino- March 24, 2011 at 10:07 am
all the ufc really cares about is making money and fights that will sell. thats why okami hasnt got a title shot. i mean maia did and hes terrible, but at the time he was marketable. fuck the ufc they will never make the best fights happen.
Dagnut- March 24, 2011 at 9:57 am
@ Loki, I respect your opinion but he may have only lost to Sonnen and Franklin but really he's only beaten Nate the plate..he's a decent fighter, I'm not going to rag on him, but I don't see where he's going to beat Silva...he hasn't the hands, he hasn't the speed to close the distance, He's not a great finisher...Munoz ran him very close....hmmmmmmm I just don't see it
fACE7biter- March 24, 2011 at 9:57 am
Yes, he absolutely has a chance. Lot of people didn't give Sonnen a chance either and look how that went. I don't care that much about the Belfort KO because Vitor is known for being inconsistent and sometimes sloppy. Okami is a built like a tank, and he's never been KO'd. He's got wrestling and heavy hands, two thigns that could mean trouble for Anderson. He's also been training and game planning with Chael, the only guy to almost beat Anderson. This is absolutely an interesting fight, and I want to see it sooner than later already. The idea of Anderson sitting on the shelf for a year to wait for GSP is fucking dumb.
jimbonics- March 24, 2011 at 9:49 am
Okami not only has a chance, he's overdue for a title shot imo. 10-2 since coming to the UFC, only losing to Rich and Chael.
4 fight win streak - loss - three fight win streak - loss - three fight win streak - ?
Stak40- March 24, 2011 at 9:32 am
Seriously, am I really to believe everybody is now scared of Jones? Yes Silva doesn't finish wrestlers as quickly but he still has yet to lose to one in how long? Unless Okami has improved drastically I doubt he will be any different.
Hesh to Steel- March 24, 2011 at 9:27 am
I hear so many conflicting things about what Anderson wants that I don't think anyone knows. It'll be a year tile he fights GSP, if that happens so he might as well fight okami in the meantime. The only guys who give silva trouble are wrestlers, so I don't think this fight is a TOTAL waste of time. Have silva's next fights be okami, then gsp, then if he's willing, move up to 205. I wouldn't be surprised if he wants nothing to do with Jon Jones though. Can't say I'd blame him.
Smitty- March 24, 2011 at 9:20 am
I don't think Yushin stands a chance either, but the only people to beat The Spider were asian, and Yushin was one of them. Granted it was by DQ, but I think thats in the back of Silvas head and it "MIGHT" have him a little nervous.......................Naw, he'll kill him.
LOKI- March 24, 2011 at 9:09 am
I think he has a great chance of beating Silva. As good as anyone at 185. He is Chael Sonnen with submission awareness.
Odd though that there were no questions about that huge radioactive elephant sitting in the corner of the dojo.
BONGTAR- March 24, 2011 at 9:03 am
Drapes dont match the carpet
Stak40- March 24, 2011 at 8:50 am
Face, you think Yushin really has a chance because i dont, i say Silva vacates the division and goes up to 205 and dont even worry about fighting GSP. Hell give him Shogun.
fACE7biter- March 24, 2011 at 8:44 am
I wish they would just book the fucking match already between Anderson and Yushin. We waited for half a year for Anderson to come back from the Sonnen beating, to comingout of the Belfort fight completely unscathed, and now he's just sitting on the shelf, for what? GSP doesn't want to fight him anytime soon, so just book the fucking match. Its not like guys don't get hurt when they're not booked for a fight i.e. Rashad. He hasn't cleaned out the division yet. Show the fight for free in Japan for good PR.
GILL-uh-TEEN- March 24, 2011 at 8:29 am
Raw Beef Liver.... take that Brock Lesnar!
Stak40- March 24, 2011 at 8:28 am
He must have learned the putting raw beef in his mouth from Sonnen. I wonder if he adds traditional brazilians spices to make training more realistic.
Dog Dicks Magoo- March 24, 2011 at 8:16 am