King of Pancrase ISAO confidently jumps into “Lion” Takeshi’s den at VTJ 6th with less meat on his bones

King of Pancrase ISAO Kobayashi
King of Pancrase ISAO Kobayashi

Featherweight King of Pancrase ISAO Kobayashi faces Lion Takeshi at VTJ 6th on October 4, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Every facet of this fight will be a new challenge for him, but he is ready, and confident.


Isao Kobayashi, known as ISAO to media everywhere, is a 6-year, dyed-in-the-wool Pancrase veteran who ascended from winning the Neo-Blood Tournament to winning the crown jewels. He is one of the few people to be lucky enough to hold one of the most beautiful MMA championship belts ever made.

And rightly so. At 15-1-4, ISAO holds KOs over the likes of Kazuki Tokudome and most recently fellow King of Pancrase at welterweight, Kuniyoshi Hironaka. He avenged his only loss by taking the belt from previous Champ and his nemesis Koji Oishi.

ISAO’s battles to date have all been with Pancrase. Now he makes a huge leap into another promotion, a different atmosphere of the cage, and another staunch opponent in Takeshi Inoue. All of this, and he’s doing it a weight category lower at bantam.

ISAO is on the shortlist of future international contenders to come from Japan. As such, all eyes will be on him during his next fight in VTJ, which will be broadcast through Nico Nico internationally. The knock out artist from Sakaguchi Dojo will definitely be looking to prove himself over Takeshi, who, as a veteran of 30 fights and a Shooto mainstay, will still be a stiff challenge despite dropping his last four in a row – maybe even because of them.

MMA-in-ASIA had a chance to interview ISAO briefly before his fight. He spoke about his time training overseas with Team Oyama, his cut to bantamweight, and his opinion on the upcoming match.


MMA-in-ASIA: You literally just returned from training in the US. How was the experience?

ISAO: The atmosphere in America was amazing, and I was able to really concentrate on my training and fight preparation.

MMA-in-ASIA: Did you like the food?

ISAO: Well I catered for myself so there was no problem with the food!

MMA-in-ASIA: What did you gain or learn the most from your training there that you can employ in future fights?

ISAO: Well, coming up, it’s my first time in the cage and the rules are different, so I’m looking forward to using elbows and other techniques.

MMA-in-ASIA: You are dropping to bantamweight as well. Why did you decide to make the cut now? How easy was the weight coming off?

ISAO: Well, I’m not big for the featherweight class, so I made the drop as I want to think about the future. The cut was hard, but I made sure I planned it carefully and just got on with it!

MMA-in-ASIA: You are fighting another big name in Lion Takeshi. You have already faced and defeated a few other guys who were well-known champions. Do you have any feelings about a famous opponent?

ISAO: No, I’m just really excited about the fight and looking forward to it.

MMA-in-ASIA: As a striker, do you feel his footwork will be challenging?

ISAO: There will be many challenges, but I just have to work through them! I just have to keep on getting positive results.

MMA-in-ASIA: What are your goals for 2015?

ISAO: I want to continue to grow and improve.

MMA-in-ASIA: How would you describe your style to people who might be watching you fight live for the first time?

ISAO: My style is to just throw everything at it and keep working!


Translation provided by John Merva, MMA-in-ASIA’s bilingual correspondent in Malaysia and Japan. Check out John’s newest endeavors at Loops Collective KL.