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Last week, we released our interview with Mikuru Asakura. He is brash and incredibly outspoken. On the other side of the ring at RIZIN 25, the 18-4-2 Yutaka Saito looks to upset the Japanese sensation and claim the RIZIN featherweight title for his own.
Saito found fighting by one of the most iconic fights in the early days: Ernesto Hoost versus Bob Sapp. It led Yutaka Saito down the rabbit hole and led him to take up the sport himself.
“My first introduction to combat sports was the first Ernesto Hoost versus Bob Sapp fight in K-1. That got me looking up other fights and videos which eventually led me to start the sport my self.”
Outside of fighting, Saito likes to relax and unwind. He bikes and when he’s not cutting weight, eats, and eats good. “I like to ride my bike and head over to various bat houses. That gets me relaxed the most. And when I don’t have fights lined up, I like to eat ramen and sweets.”
Yutaka Saito at RIZIN 25
RIZIN 23 was Saito’s debut for the promotion. He won that fight with a soccer kick and some grounded knees, an absolutely vicious knockout of Kazumasa Majima. While Saito hadn’t fought in the ring in over four years. Despite that, he really enjoyed the RIZIN experience and looks forward to the next.
“The fight itself was the same, except that the last time I fought in a ring was 4 years ago. But mores, the people around me were more excited about the fight, and the response I got from people around me before and after my fight was huge.”
As mentioned at the top, Yutaka Saito is fighting for the featherweight title at RIZIN 25. He takes on the tough task of upsetting Asakura after winning his promotional deubt at RIZIN 23. But, after making the rounds in Shooto for his entire career up until that fight, Saito has been there and looks to take his experience with him into his biggest fight to date.
All fighters are hurt by the COVID pandemic. Yutaka Saito is no different. The dojo he normally trains in was less than optimal for a fight camp so Saito had to make due. He also had a bit of trouble getting fights.
“Our dojo has regulations where we have to wear masks when we train, so I set up fight camp outside of my dojo, and cross trained with many other fighters. I also had some fights canceled due to the pandemic so I had to take whatever fight that was presented to me.”
Yutaka Saito versus Mikuru Asakura
While he didn’t expect to get the call for the title, he gladly accepted the chance to grab the strap. “I wasn’t expecting a title fight after one win, but the opportunity presented itself and I had no reason to decline it. I believe it was meant to be.”
As we mentioned in our interview with Mikuru Asakura, he is widely known among JMMA fans. The opportunity to get in front of an audience like his presents a unique opportunity for Yutaka Saito and, while he sees Asakura as another fight, he knows that with a win, he reaps some great benefits.
“It’s a good opportunity for me. The people around me make it seem like such a big deal so I guess it’s the biggest fight of my career. He’s a very well known fighter in Japan, so I’d like to make sure to utilize this opportunity to take my fighter career to the next level.”
Asakura is cutting more weight than normal to make this fight. Regardless, Saito is expecting the best version of Mikuru Asakura and knows that he has a tough fight ahead of him.
“I think all professionals will make sure that their conditions are spot on for fight day, regardless of how much weight you have to cut. So I will be expecting the best Asakura on fight day and nothing less.”
Why tune in to RIZIN 25? Saito says that he will be playing the hero and will spoil the kingmaking of Mikuru Asakura. He says, “I think most of the fans want to see Asakura lose, so I plan to give everybody satisfaction.”