Rena: Japan’s MMA Darling

RENA: Japan’s MMA Darling

Headlining RIZIN 32 on the other side of the ring with Miyuu Yamamoto, Rena needs no introduction. The Shoot Boxing darling has blazed the path in RIZIN. Since pivoting to MMA, Rena has gone an impressive 11-3 and looks to keep improving as a fighter. Ever popular, Rena takes on a tough Yamamoto in a rematch from her second pro fight and Yamamoto’s first in the main event of RIZIN 32.

Starting out, Rena was just a young girl who felt she wasn’t seen as equal. Being the youngest sister, she went out to get back at her sisters.

“I’m the youngest of 4 sisters and I was always being bullied and treated like scum. So my original intention on learning how to fight was to get strong and get back at them,” said Rena with a laugh.

Outside of fighting and training, Rena enjoys maritime activities. Being a professional fighter, you can imagine how an active lifestyle is attractive to her.

“I love the ocean so I like to spend time scuba diving and surfing. I enjoy all sorts of marine activities and occasionally go fishing on a boat. I live with 4 French bulldogs so spending time with them is the most relaxing time for me on a daily basis.”

As for her fighting career, Rena says there’s no specific goal in mind. “I don’t have anything specific but I think the goal will present itself once I feel that I’m satisfied.” Simply put, she is enjoying each moment for what it is and loving every second of it.

Rena vs. Miyuu Yamamoto at RIZIN 32

As mentioned at the top, Rena and Miyuu Yamamoto are rematching after five years away from each other, both competing and both improving. While she saw her first fight a bit daunting of a task, Rena says that the rematch is something she’s glad to be able to do. With Yamamoto winning several wrestling World Championships and still competing at a high level, Rena knows this fight is going to be one of the best RIZIN can put on for the year.

“I remember when we first fought we were both very new to the sport, but I knew her accomplishments and her physical capabilities so I was very scared and practiced a lot. I’m happy to be able to be fighting her again knowing that she still’s still in tip top condition and has the presence that she has. I’m very excited that we’re having this rematch in the main event of such a special event. We have both evolved as MMA fighters and it would be great to be able to put on the most exciting fight for the fans that night.”

While Rena did win her first fight, she knows that this fight is going to be a different story. Both fighters have changed so much and will be a completely different fight. Training out of AACC with Hiroyuki Abe and RIZIN champion Ayaka Hamasaki, Rena feels that she is in good hands going into RIZIN 32 as far as coaches are concerned.

“I really can’t say too much about my game plan, but I have been working with AACC’s coach [Hiroyuki] Abe, and my teammate, [Ayaka] Hamasaki and former wrestling Olympians to be able to utilize my striking against a wrestling heavy opponent.”

Rena is Japan’s star.

Losing is important in any fighter’s career. It’s inevitable, as a matter of fact. Even fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Floyd Mayweather have lost. It may not be in the ring or Octagon, but it happened somewhere. Rena says her loss to Lindsey VanZandt at Bellator 222 motivated her like never before. Fighting VanZandt in the United States was an overwhelming experience at first. But, Rena was able to hone it all in with the rematch at RIZIN 20 that saw VanZandt’s corner throw in the towel in the rematch.

“The first fight in Bellator was my first fight in the US, and my first time fighting in the cage so I was extremely nervous. I couldn’t show 1% of my true abilities, and at the same time I think I was in over my head and didn’t have the sense of emergency. Mentally I wasn’t ready to go in the cage and win. So for the rematch in RIZIN,  I was more focused on showing my true abilities than the result itself.”

Since that fight with VanZandt, Rena has won three straight, including the rematch. Rena feels the pandemic has held her back, but she also says the loss and subsequent wins from Lindsey VanZandt have been a blessing, making her a better martial artist and getting her to the next level, which we will see at RIZIN 32.

“I haven’t been able to fight constantly because of the pandemic, I don’t really feel like I’ve been on a consecutive win streak, but I’ve learned the importance on taking reality in and moving forward after the loss to Lindsey. I never want to lose and always fight to win but I have realized that we live in a sport that only has two results, so accepting the result and growing from it is the most important thing that we all can do not only with the sport, but at work and with every day life.”

So why should you tune in to watch Rena and Miyuu Yamamoto run it back on November 20th? Much like Miyuu Yamamoto said in her interview with me ahead of this fight, Rena believes it will be a fantastic example of how two MMA fighters have evolved over a five year period.

“Watch me and Miyuu fight a rematch after 5 years. We will show you a totally different fight, and show you how much we have both evolved as a fighter, and as a human.”

Catch Rena in the main event. She’s a star already. With such a massive following of her career already, any time Rena fights, fans have to tune in! Don’t miss this one!

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