Emi Fujino makes her international debut challenging Strawweight Champion Jessica Aguilar at WSOF 10 in Las Vegas, USA on June 22, 2014.
Fujino (13-7) is one of the premier female martial artists ever produced in Japan. She is known for outstanding grappling and fierce tenacity which make her fights very entertaining to watch. Fujino has never been finished, and of her 13 wins, 7 have come by way of submission.
Fujino has fought the top of her division over ten years in MMA, which she initially started to lose weight and not from any previous combat sport that led her to it. Despite a recent upset in the DEEP Jewels Lightweight Tournament by young sensation Mizuki Inoue, Fujino’s credentials put her at the top of the list in signing with WSOF. The promotion also chose her to fight in the US before any Japan venture, a good sign of commitment from the promotion for their support of her star power.
MMA-in-ASIA was able to speak with Fujino via Skype following her successful weigh ins with SuckerPunch manager Shu Hirata translating. She was very candid and upbeat about her first overseas experience, and gave insight to the development of women’s MMA.
MMA-in-ASIA: Congratulations on signing to international promotion WSOF. How is your condition?
Fujino: Thanks! I’m in the best shape of my life.
MMA-in-ASIA: I saw on your blog that you had 5 kilos to lose only a few days ago. How did you do that, for being such a fit and trim fighter anyway?
Fujino: I had a total of 10 kilos to lose. I cut about 7 kilos in japan and I came into Vegas at about 4 kilos over. But just by working out, and maybe the weather here and just by walking outside, I had an easier time cutting weight. It wasn’t that difficult at all.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have any jet lag?
Fujino: No jet lag at all! The day I arrived I stayed up really late, so I’ve slept well.
MMA-in-ASIA: How has your training been? Have you been working on anything specific for Aguilar?
Fujino: It’s not really about Jessica, it’s more about possibly fighting 5 rounds. I’ve only done 3 round bouts, so I’m thinking about possibly going the full 5 rounds, so I’ve been emphasizing more on stamina.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you been working on wall walking or anything specific for the cage?
Fujino: I’ve fought in cage fights before. Regularly I train on the wall, so I didn’t do anything specific for this fight because I’m used to fighting in the cage.
MMA-in-ASIA: I saw a picture you posted training sumo on Twitter, is that your new secret weapon?
Fujino: Actually, that photo is not me! It’s a small wrestler girl who really looks like me so I posted it, and everybody made the same mistake just like you did!
MMA-in-ASIA: At the WSOF photo shoot, you did a funny pose that Omigawa Michihiro is known for. Can you explain it?
Fujino: There was a famous gymnast back in the ’70s called Nadia Comaneci. There’s a Japanese comedy filmmaker Beat Takeshi, and that’s a slapstick joke on her from the movie he made that’s now well-known to a lot of Japanese people.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve been at Wayjutsu Keishukai GODS for your whole career. Aguilar has been at ATT her whole career. What is the importance of remaining with one team for your entire career?
Fujino: I go out to train at other gyms, it’s not like I go to GODS every single day. In that sense, mentally I’m free to work out anywhere I want. But the reason I stay with the team for my whole career is because I value the master-student type of relationship and that’s what I follow.
MMA-in-ASIA: Taiyo Nakahara is with you now, have you been training with him?
Fujino: Yes, I do train with him daily.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you trained with Mark Streigl? He has become quite well-known around Asia.
Fujino: Yes I did train with him when he was there.
MMA-in-ASIA: Has Taiyo been your primary partner for this fight?
Fujino: I’ve also trained with Katsunori Tsuda.
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve never been submitted or KOed, but you’ve also never gotten a KO. Is this an area you’ve been trying to improve upon, knowing Aguilar’s willingness to stand up?
Fujino: Yes. My goal is to win by KO!
MMA-in-ASIA: You’ve been fighting for ten years and you say you are now at the top of your condition. Is this how long it takes for a female mixed martial artist to get to the top, into an international promotion?
Fujino: I don’t have a combat sports background so that’s why it took me so long to get here. If you have a wrestling or kickboxing background, then that would be a different story. But MMA in general has so many techniques, and also for the grappling, the more experience you have the better it gets. So in those terms, it does take this long to get here.
MMA-in-ASIA: There are many dojos – like Mach’s, Tribe Tokyo, Shuichiro Katsunori – staring their own promotions recently due to UFC and WSOF planning events in Japan. Does this signal an improvement in popularity of MMA in Japan, and if so, does it help female fighters as well?
Fujino: Most of those shows, like Mach’s and Chonon’s, the male fighters will want to fight in those shows, but for women, we need more amateur-level opportunities. Like for myself, I was able to fight in Fuji’s “Girls Fight Challenge”. That’s what’s needed to give more opportunities for female fighters.