Judoka Yoshiyuki Yoshida is probably one of the most well-known Japanese fighters who has fought the majority of his career outside of his home country. In fact, he hasn’t fought in his own country for the past six years. Yoshida got his start in Japan’s first cage promotion, GCM’s Cage Force, and became it’s Welterweight Champion which catapulted him into the UFC. After his tenure there, he went to Bellator for one fight and contunied in several other promotions, including Southeast Asia’s ONE FC, where he bested Phil Baroni through three rounds.
Now Yoshida is making his return to Japan at a time when it seems the country is experiencing heightened activity: many promotions are expanding their ranks with international talent and procuring live streams to capture an international audience. A live stream will indeed be on order for Yoshida’s upcoming fight in DEEP Cage Impact 2013 on November 24, 2013. MMA-in-ASIA spoke with him prior to the fight to get his opinions on his return, his opponent, and his future in the sport.
MMA–in-ASIA: You haven’t fought in a year. Why is that?
Yoshida: I still wanted to fight outside Japan so my management was looking for fights around the world but couldn’t find a right fight. So after some discussion we decided to shoot for the DEEP Lightweight title.
MMA–in-ASIA: What is your judo ranking now?
Yoshida: Third degree black belt.
MMA–in-ASIA: Do you think MMA fighters should incorporate judo into their training and why?
Yoshida: Yes judo can be a solid base for submissions, take downs, and takedown defense.
MMA–in-ASIA: When you were champ in Cage Force, many people commented on your cage savvy. What advice would you give young fighters in Japan about the cage?
Yoshida: I’m not sure, because I didn’t train in the cage for that tournament [laughs].
MMA–in-ASIA: You are undefeated since 2010. What is your greatest strength to make you keep winning?
Yoshida: My desire to get back into UFC or Bellator.
MMA–in-ASIA: You are 39 years old. Now, there are many fighters in your age range who are at the top. How do you stay in top condition?
Yoshida: I began MMA at age 30, so actually I am only nine years old in terms of ring and cage age [laughs].
MMA–in-ASIA: Do you have any retirement plans?
Yoshida: Not yet. I want to be like Randy Couture.
MMA–in-ASIA: How does it feel to fight in Japan again?
Yoshida: In my last fight, in Finland, I fought at 71.5 kg and I didn’t do too well gaining my weight back and recovering from dehydration, but this time, even though I’m at 70.3 kg, I had an easier time cutting weight, so condition-wise I feel much better this time.
MMA–in-ASIA: Do you expect a big fan welcome?
Yoshida: I am not sure about that because I never fought for a big Japanese promotion.
MMA–in-ASIA: What do you know about Parky, and what do you think his strongest technique is?
Yoshida: He’s a tough fighter and his strength is probably his striking.
MMA–in-ASIA: What do you know about Team MAD, and his training partners?
Yoshida: Not much [laughs].
MMA–in-ASIA: Who have been your training partners for this fight?
Yoshida: I train at various places. At Team Otokogi with fighters like Shintaro Ishiwatari and Hiroshi Iron Nakamura. I also train at Alliance with Katsunori Kikuno and Maximo Blanco.
MMA–in-ASIA: Do you have a specific game plan for him?
Yoshida: Yes but I’m sorry, I can’t reveal it!
MMA–in-ASIA: How do you see yourself winning?
Yoshida: By submission.
MMA–in-ASIA: Do you think MMA is gaining in popularity in Japan again?
Yoshida: It would be nice to see that MMA gets that popularity back in Japan…..
MMA–in-ASIA: What do you think about the explosion of MMA popularity across Asia now?
Yoshida: I think that is very good for the sport but right now I am only thinking about a fight tomorrow.