Koji Tanaka Kouzi interview
Kouzi: The Emperor Returns

Kouzi: The Emperor Returns

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Rounding out our coverage of the RIZIN 29 Grand Prix, we spoke with the man who made it all happen. Kouzi called for the tournament to be held and, at his request, RIZIN put it together. Now he is squared away to take on the challenge. As animated as ever, Kouzi is ready to put on a show and is stirring the pot of anyone who stands in his way of taking the victory home.

Right off the bat, Kouzi was firing from the hip. He believes this tournament is a way to grow kickboxing as a sport. Make no mistake about it, however, he also sees the opportunity here to steal the shine for himself.

“I’m simply grateful that RIZIN decided to meet my request, and knowing what they can do watching MMA tournaments, I think us kickboxers can put on a great fight and receive the attention we all deserve. I think it’s the most easiest way to catch attention and easy way for the fans to follow and I think RIZIN is the platform where there are no boundaries between organizations which makes it much better. I asked for this tournament, I’m going to win it all, I’m going to be very happy about and my fans will be happy for me. In short words, this will be me masterbating in public.”

While his history is well known, especially coming over from K-1, Kouzi hasn’t had the best of luck in RIZIN. He lost to the legendary Tenshin Nasukawa and Takanori Gomi. Now, however, he believes that he is at the start of a comeback and is out to prove that he isn’t done yet.

“I think it’s the ultimate honor. I’m not going to forget the opportunities that K-1 presented me and how they treated me but I think it will be a great story if I win this. I’ve had a bad run after moving over to RIZIN and people think I don’t have it in me anymore, but coming back from all of that would be great and I’m the only one who can tell this ultimate comeback story. I’m proud to be put in this position.”

He’s not letting those losses get to him, however. But Kouzi isn’t letting that negative momentum get to him. This tournament is an opportunity for Kouzi to show the fans exactly what he’s about.

“I’m disappointed in the fact that I still haven’t been able to meet the expectations of the RIZIN fans and MMA fans ever since coming here. But I don’t regret a single moment of my decisions and I think I can prove my value and my performance will make up for my past. This will be my first time fight opponents my size after coming to RIZIN so I look to show everybody what I can do in this tournament. I’m not ready to make any excuses about my previous performances yet, I will make excuses after I win this tournament.”

Kouzi and RIZIN 29

As we talked about in our interview with Taiju Shiratori, there is no love lost between the Teppen kickboxer and Kouzi. Words have gone back and forth and it has many interested in the fight. According to Kouzi, that is all according to plan.

“I honestly don’t care about that pretty boy. For me I think pre fight trash talk is what makes the fight much more exciting and that’s just my style. I usually mean what I say when I talk smack, but for this guy I don’t care at all. So I don’t care who I fight in the finals because it won’t make a difference. This tournament is for me and for me to win it all and I’m motivated.”

But, just because Shiratori trains at Teppen with Tenshin Nasukawa doesn’t make him Tenshin Nasukawa. Kouzi wants to remind everyone who he has fought in the past. He’s turned nobody down. He’s fought the top two pound guys in the sport and fears no man.

“Tenshin is Tenshin and Shiratori is just one of his groupies so I could really care less about him. I’ve faced Tenshin and Takeru, who are the top guys in our industry so me fighting Shiratori does absolutely nothing for me. I don’t have anybody who I desire to fight at the moment and Shiratori is just one of the guys they lined up for me. I have absolutely no interest in this guy, and if I could, I would want to revenge Tenshin and Takeru so again, I have no interest in this guy and I don’t care about him at all.”

For now, Kouzi’s eyes are on Genji Umeno, his first opponent in the Grand Prix. While Umeno remains coy on his Thai boxing accolades, Kouzi isn’t looking past all that he’s done.

“Like I said, I don’t care who it is, but my first opponent Umeno has been competing at the top level since I made my pro debut and he’s got tons of accomplishments in Muay Thai, and he’s got my respect in that way so once I can get over this tough obstacle I won’t care who I face next. My goal is to make it to the finals and win in the finals.”

Reminding everyone who made this happen, Kouzi says the RIZIN 29 Grand Prix is his to lose. But, he will take his time to shine and said so in the most explicit of ways.

“I made this tournament happen, I’m going to make it an entertaining tournament and I’m going to win. I’m going to be very happy about it and make my fans happy too. This will be the ultimate public masterbation that only I can make happen.”

Kouzi takes on Umeno in the first round of the RIZIN 29 Grand Prix and will look to take the winner of Shiratori and Ryo Takahashi in the final fight of the night live on LiveNow!

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Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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