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Satoshi Ishii's Trainer on Challenge to Kazuyuki Fujita and Return to Japan

When he announced his intent to move to MMA, Beijing Olympic heavyweight judo gold medalist, Satoshi Ishii, was the hottest free agent in mixed martial arts. He was to be the savior of Japanese MMA. In his debut, Ishii dropped a decision to 1992 Gold Medalist Hidehiko Yoshida on New Years Eve and the hype evaporated.

Since then Ishii has gone 2-0 and most recently had a win in Xplosion in New Zealand over WKBF New Zealand Super Heavyweight Champ Tafa Misipati. After his second low profile fight, Ishii this week announced his intention to step back up to Sengoku Raiden Championships, calling out PRIDE veteran Kazuyuki Fujita. Ray Matsumura has cornered, trained and promoted Ishii and he spoke to about the young judoka's future.

"SRC has not booked the venue yet. I think it will be late September for the next SRC. He wants to fight Fujita or Yoshida again as he thinks they are the biggest names in Japan. He wants to fight them so that he can become the biggest name but Fujita will be a hard fight for Ishii. He isn't easy to submit. I think Ishii will have more of a shot if he strikes with him."

Ishii's stock plummeted in his MMA debut against Yoshida. While he showed that he had heart, he clearly lacked the technical proficiency in the stand up and wasn't able to bring his judo game into MMA effectively. Following that loss, Ishii's challenges to Fedor Emelianenko were forgotten, he fell out of the spotlight and relocated to Hawaii to train and develop as a fighter on a much smaller stage.

"He wanted to be a big mouth. A big shot. Now he is thinking that he has to go step by step. Ishii is at development stage - from budoka (martial artist) to pro fighter. I train with him and I think that he has high potential. His body and spirit is good, his striking is great and ground work is good too. He just to needs set his mind up - how he wants to be as an MMA Fighter."

Japan is famous for forgiving a loss. Looking back, it was ludicrous to think that the debuting judoka would have a chance against one of the legends of the sport but it hasn't harmed his career locally. Now that Ishii is doing things properly and starting small, can he become the savior that Japanese MMA needs?

"Yes, now he is down to earth and hungry. The budo side of Japan has a lot of pressure on him at moment so he can not be who he wants to be yet. He needs to win and win. He is a big name so after (he starts winning in Japan), it will be good for MMA. He needs confidence and experience I think. He is a humble man and listens good. And he loves fighting, that is for sure."

The 23-year-old is to have a second fight in Hawaii under the X-1 banner on June 4th. After that Ishii, who was recently married to a 19-year-old student, will return to Japan to watch SRC13 on June 20th where we can expect further details to be announced regarding his next bout in the promotion.

Former SRC front man, Takahiro Kokuho has not yet committed to continuing his new promotion, ASTRA, but he did make the trip to New Zealand to watch Ishii from cage side.

"Mr. Kokuho was there at Xplosion... I can not comment on (if Kokuho is interested in signing Ishii). Ishii needs a big stage for sure but Sengoku has one more fight with him."

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