Yuki Baba faces Nam Phan at Pancrase 261 on October 5, 2014. The knock out artist has put in work to improve himself for an onslaught on the entire featherweight division.
Yuki Baba began his pro career in 2007, but it was two years ago when he found solid footing in Pancrase. Baba had a wildly successful first year with the promotion, and eyes started to turn in his direction. But a tough 2013 saw his ground skills exposed against, high caliber grapplers.
In 2014, Pancrase still looked upon him with favor and added him to the line up for 257, the very last event in the iconic ring. In a move up to featherweight, he would be facing an extremely well-rounded Guy Delumeau who definitely had grappling in his favor. Baba was resolute. He walked out to the ring as if this was the only moment in all of time which truly mattered.
Perhaps it was the Pancrase gravity, the mounting excitement of the event, or just really good lighting, but Baba at featherweight looked as if he was a champion when he entered the ring. He felt it too, and he came back in style with another lightning fast round. Baba cleanly landed a right hook that dropped Delumeau on his butt, and wasted no time rushing in to finish the job with a knee and more punches. It took all of 30 seconds for Baba to get his hand raised.
His next task pits him against a man with huge amounts of experience. Baba gets a legitimate test in the stepping stone that is this fight. Ahead of the match, MMA-in-ASIA spoke with Baba about the evolutions in his career, his style, and where he sees himself in 2015.
MMA-in-ASIA: Why did you start learning MMA?
Baba: I began learning MMA as the extension of the judo that I did since I was young.
MMA-in-ASIA: Your career beginning was tough, with alternate wins and losses. What made you keep going?
Baba: Actually most of my amateur fights I did not lose. The reason I continued is because, after all, I like MMMA.
MMA-in-ASIA: You have some very quick KOs on your record. Did they come from instinct? Can you feel an easy KO coming?
Baba: It’s instinct. It’s not a simple thing to hit a moving partner.
MMA-in-ASIA: How would you describe your style?
Baba: I do everything to be striking, even if I hit the ground I will strike and stand.
MMA-in-ASIA: You had two losses against very tough opponents, Shimizu and Cesar. What did you learn from them? Did it make you train more grappling?
Baba: Of course grappling is important. I wanted to learn submissions a little more because I lost in a submission hold.
MMA-in-ASIA: Then you rebounded with a beautiful KO of Delumeau. Was this a comeback? The next stage of your career?
Baba: It only leads me to the next stage by having won.
MMA-in-ASIA: Your next opponent is Nam Phan, a very well known fighter, a striker. What were you feeling when you accepted the offer?
Baba: I felt lucky that a player who has fought in UFC could fight in Japanese PANCRASE.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your thoughts on him?
Baba: I have an image of jiujitsu, but his fight type is that of a striker.
MMA-in-ASIA: So, how do you think the fight will play out?
Baba: There is no strategy. I will fight as each change comes at me.
MMA-in-ASIA: What are your goals for 2015?
Baba: I want to be King of Pancrase.
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you think of the new cage and rules for Pancrase?
Baba: I think that it was a good decision to change, it approaches what’s happening in the rest of the world.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you like the cage?
Baba: This fight will be my first time in the cage. I like it, personally.
MMA-in-ASIA: Japan is expensive to live and train. How do you do it? Do you have another job?
I have many companies who sponsor and support me. Afterwards, I work in my father’s company.
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.