Riki Fukuda takes on Kim HeeSeung as the main event for ROAD FC – Korea 1 on January 18, 2014. In his debut, Fukuda is motivated to finish and completely focused on his new promotion.
Fukuda was the DEEP Middleweight Champion then vacated his title to fight in the UFC. After five fights with the promotion over two years, he was released in a slight amount of controversy. Fukuda was quickly picked up by Korea’s ROAD FC and will make his debut on their first monthly league event called ROAD FC – Korea 1.
MMA-in-ASIA’s Lee Li and Kei Kumaki sat down with Fukuda in a personal interview before his match. Fukuda spoke about the differences in countries and promotions he has experienced, his commitment to his career in ROAD FC, and his personal style in the cage and in training preferences.
MMA-in-ASIA: You were released from the UFC for a failed drug test, and previously you said to Japanese media that it was cold medicine that you took and didn’t divulge. Can you clarify the situation?
Riki: Believe or not – it’s up to you. I have never found any fighter who has been penalized using ephedrine. Of course I’ve known many fighters who were penalized for marijuana and steroids, but I didn’t think ephedrine was an illegal drug. However, it’s my responsibility.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you think there is an agenda against Asian fighters with the unusual cuts like you and Yushin Okami recently?
Riki: I’m not in the same position as Okami. I don’t think the reason I was released by the UFC was discrimination, but because I’m not a top contender. My career is not good, not suitable to keep under contract.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have an opinion on the UFC strategy in new markets like Brazil and Asia to have Brazilians fight Brazilians and Asians fight Asians?
Riki: It’s natural. I understand. The fighters realize the UFC is a step for young fighters and new fighters no matter what, so if I fight anywhere the situation is still the same. So I chose ROAD FC because they want me the most.
MMA-in-ASIA: Were there any other circumstances behind your decision to sign with ROAD FC?
Riki: ROAD FC estimates me as very high and they really want me. I think the level of ROAD FC is very high. There are real fights, good fights here. I have never experienced fighting in Korea and I like fighting in places I don’t know.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you think that ROAD FC’s amateur tournaments have helped to build the level of the fighters?
Riki: Yes I think that’s a very important part of it.
MMA-in-ASIA: There have many big upsets in ROAD FC against foreign fighters. Does this impress you, or do you see your opponent, who has a relatively low number of fights, as perhaps a drop down in level?
Riki: I don’t think my opponent is an underdog. I am ready for this fight perfectly.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your training situation in Tokyo?
Riki: My ideal is a mega-gym, but it’s impossible in Japan. There are very few middleweight fighters in Japan so we have to get together even if we belong to different gyms. When we gather, it’s mainly sparring. To spar is very important, but only sparring doesn’t make me strong. So I go to a pure boxing gym and to a pure jiujitsu gym, so after sparring I have questions for the coaches.
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you think about this, since they are not MMA, how can they help you?
Riki: Of course I know they are not MMA coaches, they are pure boxing and jiujitsu not MMA, but they are very supportive, so I’m very glad to have such great coaches because they really think about how to make me stronger. I’m lucky to find them.
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you changed how to adjust your fight because of changing the place you fight, from America to Korea?
Riki: I came to Korea one day before the weigh in. In the UFC, I would have gone 5 days earlier. ROAD FC staff are very polite and very kind to me. As soon as I arrived at Incheon, they were very quick to pick me up and send me to the hotel.
MMA-in-ASIA: What is your ideal personal fight style?
Riki: I realize that I don’t have a big punch, so my ideal fight style is like Cain Velasquez. Keep moving, keep moving, continue to attack, and make my opponent very tired.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you think that MMA in Asia can develop to the point where it stands separate from USA-produced MMA?
Riki: Korean MMA is going well. It’s because the fights are very competitive. Only a fighter who wins a lot can fight in ROAD FC. I think there’s a very good pyramid system in place. Conversely, in Japan, even if a fighter doesn’t experience an amateur career, he can still be a professional fighter. Even if a fighter is weak, if he can sell a lot of tickets, he can fight in the ring. So because it’s easy to be a professional fighter, then the system is not the best. A few years ago there were only a few promotions, so there were many fighters who wanted to make it and had to train hard for many years to get there. So I think the Korean system of MMA is good.
MMA-in-ASIA: It has been three years since you started with the UFC, which is a large chunk of your career. What are your new goals as a fighter?
Riki: Now I have a contract with ROAD FC, so I will focus on becoming a ROAD FC Champion.
MMA-in-ASIA: Mr Jung, the owner, has said that he doesn’t care if a ROAD FC Champion is Korean or not, what matters is the morals, politeness, and kindness of the person who becomes champion. Do you think that this is the Asian or Korean way?
Riki: I understand your question: what’s the difference between the Korean promotion and the American promotion. UFC is very very huge and has already made it. For ROAD FC, I haven’t fought yet, but I think they are very polite and kind, I don’t have anything to complain about.
MMA-in-ASIA: What was your most exciting fight?
Riki: Hopefully this fight!
MMA-in-ASIA: Have you anything planned to change in your style?
MMA-in-ASIA: Is this something you need personally? More than win or put on a good fight?
Riki: Winning is most important! But I want to finish.
MMA-in-ASIA: Do you have any advice for young fighters?
Riki: I don’t think I’m in a position to give advice. But I do think there are monster fighters in Korea and Japan who are excellent now.
MMA-in-ASIA: What do you mean by monster fighters? Who are they?
Riki: For example, Kyoji Horiguchi. To see a fighter like him, I get very excited. A fighter who focuses on finishing is a fighter who excites me. I must also aim to be a fighter who finishes because they inspire me.
MMA-in-ASIA: Is it different than the UFC theme of get the belt and hold on as long as you can?
Riki: UFC also wants finishers. I’ve analyzed who they have released and who they’ve contracted recently, and I think by looking at the matches they make, they’re now looking for fighters who can finish and make exciting matches. The audience also wants it. I also want to win by finishing, not by the judge. To win is very important to me, but I keep focusing on finishing at any moment.
MMA-in-ASIA: Back to monster fighters, you are one. How can you take so much punishment and still deliver? Is it your heart, your training, your mind?
Riki: The difference in being strong is to keep training and never give up.
MMA-in-ASIA: How do you think Kawajiri and Katsunori will do well in the UFC? Are they too late in arriving?
Riki: No, I don’t think Kawajiri’s not too old. I am really looking forward to seeing his next fight after watching him in Singapore.
MMA-in-ASIA: What would you tell your fans about your change to a new promotion?
Riki: I have already changed my mindset. I am very serious about choosing ROAD FC. I am just as motivated to fight now – even more than before, when I fought in UFC. So, please give me good luck for my fight.