SHUNICHI SHIMIZU relishes being the “best unknown fighter” in his UFC debut

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ZST prodigy Shunichi Shimizu makes his UFC debut at Fight Night 34 in Singapore on January 4, 2014. The ZST prodigy may be Japan’s “best unknown fighter”.

Shunichi Shimizu has been one of the most overlooked fighters in Japan, but no longer so. His international chance comes as the UFC holds its first event in Southeast Asia, Singapore when he makes his debut against last years’ new entrant, Korean Kang KyungHo. A veteran of almost 50 fights, Shimizu has come up through the ranks in ZST, but also found successes in Sengoku, RINGS, and Pancrase. He recently finished Yuki Baba by arm bar – after he’d already gotten him in a tight RNC. Shimizu is a tactician who goes for a finish when he wants to, not when it’s offered.

Shimizu has not been finished in five years. He’s a Uruno Dojo product with a background in sambo and grappling, the latter of which garnered his “Rolling Star” moniker. MMA-in-ASIA spoke with a very calm and relaxed Shimizu before his UFC debut about everything from his family, to Donnie Yen, and his own attitude towards MMA.

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MMA-in-ASIA: Describe your fight style in your own words.

Uruno Sensei: Each fight he has a different style because each opponent is different. He has to adapt to them and learn how to use his techniques against their power. He tries not to use power.

MMA-in-ASIA: Do you make this decision before the fight or during the fight?

Shimizu: Usually my teacher and I discuss a plan before the fight, but normally in the ring I figure it out. Mainly during the fight.

MMA-in-ASIA: In 2012 you had a very slow fight schedule. Do you feel nervous because you haven’t fought, or like you can’t wait to fight?

Shimizu: I want to be nervous. But I’m not! I’m enjoying being in Singapore, everything is great. I have to make myself nervous a little bit.

MMA-in-ASIA: When you got the call from the UFC, how did you feel?

Shimizu: I was happy to hear it. My coach, manager and I always discussed how we can make it to the UFC. So actually I couldn’t be happy until the contract was finally done.

MMA-in-ASIA: Your opponent Kang Kyung Ho is big for a bantamweight. What is your strategy for a bigger opponent?

Shimizu: As I said, in the cage I will figure out how I will deal with the guy. I think I will be able to figure out how to deal with him quickly because I have much more experience than him. If he tries to tackle me, I can start over and change it all up. I have confidence.

MMA-in-ASIA: How well do you know Team MAD?

Shimizu: It’s Kim Dong Hyun’s team, and he’s a strong fighter.

MMA-in-ASIA: When you see them, do you sense a style?

Shimizu: I heard Team MAD called in a good wrestling trainer and after that they got even stronger. They are very physical. But I’m not a physical fighter. Not an IQ fighter, maybe I’m an IQ wrestler! And I like Bruce Lee. Feeling, don’t think.

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MMA-in-ASIA: Does it feel strange to be in Singapore for UFC and not Japan?

Shimizu: I’m so happy to be here, in Singapore, to fight in the UFC. I’ve been to the Philippines and Thailand last year, and I’m very happy to be here. I want to fight in UFC Macau. And I love Donnie Yen! I want to be in a movie with Donnie Yen. Any role is okay!

MMA-in-ASIA: You trained with different brothers like the Kazgan’s and the Leone’s. Let’s talk about the dynamic between brothers. You fought your own brother in an MMA match and some people say you’re crazy. What’s it like training with your own brother and sharing the same sport?

Shimizu: He’s crazy, my brother is crazy. In one word, I enjoy being with my brother.

MMA-in-ASIA: Why did you fight him?

Shimizu: Originally it was supposed to be a tag match, two on two, but they couldn’t find opponents for us. Two brothers versus two others under MMA rules. So they changed it to a grappling match. But then one week before the fight, my younger brother Toshihiro challenged me.

MMA-in-ASIA: There are three of you?

Shimizu: Well the third one is my cousin. I do have three brothers though, but the youngest is still in high school. I have to tell you about my crazy brother. I paid for him to come to this fight, along with my father. And then Toshihiro had an interview and they asked if he was going to be my cornerman. He said, “Nope, I’m going to go for sightseeing.” [laughs]

MMA-in-ASIA: When you had Yuki Baba, you changed from a perfect RNC to an arm bar, just because you wanted to. This fight is very important to you as your first. And Kang has pressure on him because his record in the UFC is 0-1-0-1. Do you have this pressure, that you cannot wait like that in this fight, if you have an opportunity to finish, you must finish?

Shimizu: I don’t have any pressure and I’ll tell you why. I am happy to be the best of the unknown fighters. I just want to enjoy fighting. I have the same pressure all the time, it doesn’t change just because I’m in the UFC.

MMA-in-ASIA: So there’s no pressure and you just want to enjoy it?

Shimizu: Well it is an important. Since I’m not nervous, I know I have to put some fire in my heart. I’m enjoy being here in Singapore, but now I have to put some fire into my heart.

MMA-in-ASIA: How do you feel about fighting in the cage?

Shimizu: I’ve fought in a cage once. It is very different. I need to see how it feels in the cage check.

MMA-in-ASIA: When the lights are on, it will feel totally different. Like you’re in a movie.

Shimizu: Like Donnie Yen. Unbeatable!