I think MMA fans around the world would like to hear the words of Japanese fighters. This is the first of what should be many posts taking the highlights of interviews and bringing them to "World MMA."
Speaking in a recent interview, on taking advantage of the US as a fighter, Sudo spoke of finding an image or character with which to "sell yourself" into the business.
Genki, Pensive and American?
"Whether the US can be used, I am not sure but... Looking at me, I am not so big... [when thinking about how to enter] my conclusion was I need a 'niche strategy'. Just like there are niche industries that fill [certain] needs."
"When I first started training, there were no other fighters at my gym with tattoos. I originally wanted to be a musician, so I had a lot of tattoos. And there weren't even really any other [Japanese] fighters with tattoos, so I thought, I will get [another] tattoo and make my debut.
Asked, "You were thinking about what sort of character you could sell..."
Genki replied, "Along with that, the ring entrance performance, the impact of the music... I saw the live concerts of bands like "Electric Groove" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I really thought that what was missing was that feeling of entertainment. I take the fight seriously but I also think that taking some things from the Japanese Pro-Wrestling scene into MMA is quite important."
Genki's trading card (front)
Genki felt it was important to go to the US to help with his debut due to a number of factors in Japan, include being teased or bullied by the higher-ups because of his tattoos.
So, based on what he saw from foreign fighters in Pancrase, he went to the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club to train with Bas Rutten, Mark Kerr, Marco Ruas, Oleg Taktarov and others.
How does Genki feel about Japan in the world of MMA?
"In Japan, MMA boomed faster than in other countries. It has been broadcast on free television from years back. Japan could be called an 'MMA Paradise'. But now, America and Korea are receiving a lot of attention, and Japan has lost its steam - it is in a period of decline. But there are various periods - of growth, of decline."
"This period of decline doesn't mean that Japanese MMA is just going to end. It can return to a state of growth and regain popularity. The question is how to do it. First, everyone has to try to make this period of decline as short as possible because timing is important."
Genki's trading card (back)
He then talks about how different the US and Japanese business models are - the US is simply #1 with a lot of smaller organizations vying to move near it - whereas the biggest boom in Japan was with two equally popular organizations - Pride and K-1. However, he feels that in today's scene, it would be best if the attention and popularity weren't divided (between Sengoku and Dream).
Asked, "But there are also people that think if there isn't a rivalry, there won't be a rise in popularity..."
Genki replies in Part 2.
Here is the Japanese text from Genki's trading card, and a very rough quick translation.
K-1 PREMIUM 2005 Dynamite !!
名 前 須藤元気
国 籍 日本（東京）
所 属 ビバリーヒルズ柔道クラブ
身 長 １７５cm
体 重 ７３kg
戦 績 ３戦３勝（HERO'S）
１９９８年 柔道カリフォルニア コパ パシフィカ大会
パンクラス、リングズなどの大会を経て、０２年にK-1 WORLD MAX、同年７月には念願のUFCに参戦するなど戦いの舞台を広げていく。
K-1 PREMIUM 2005 Dynamite !!
Name Sudou Genki
Nationality Japanese (Tokyo)
Fighting out of Beverly Hills Judo Club
Fight Record 3 fights 3 wins (Hero's)
Special title history
1996 All-Japan Junior Olympic Overall Champion
1998 California Copa Pacifica Judo Championship Middle Class Overall Champion
1998 US Judo Open Tournament No-Weight/Level-Class (Open Class) Overall Champion
2001 Regained UFC-J Champion Title
He belonged to wrestling club during his high school days in 93. In a short term of exploration in 96, he became the
champion of the All-Japan Junior Olympics and went to Poland to compete in the World Greco-Roman Wresting Championship.
Shortly after his university graduation he went to America, to the Beverly Hills Judo Club to learn MMA fighting.
After graduating university, in August of 99, he returned home to japan, and as a re-imported Fighter he had his pro debut in Japan.
He competed in Pancrase and Rings among other competitions. In 2002 he competed in the K-1 world max, and the same year,
he had a battle in the UFC. His record of fights on the stage expanded.
At the New year's day of 2003 event "dynamite", he fought the giant 110kg Butterbeat as his opponent, an unbelievably large
spectacle and again tasted victory. in may 2004 at K-1's "romanex" main event he fought Royler Gracie and scored a perfect
knockout victory. October of the same year, at the "romanex" event again main event, he got a TKO victory over professional
champion boxer Michael Ra-ma (Lama? Lamar? i dunno). in 2005 he competed in Hero's and kept a perfect fight record of
3 consecutive wins. Next, this new year's, he fights for the belt that Kid is wearing in their first match.