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Masanori Kanehara: I Felt Fear... He Doesn't Have Any Weaknesses

In his match with Marlon Sandro on June 20th at SRC 13 Masanori Kanehara will face the biggest test of his career. Sandro is a BJJ black belt. He has outrageous punching power. He only has one loss and it is highly controversial. To successfully defend his Featherweight Belt, Kanehara will need something special..

Kanehara talked to the press about seeking out the advice of pro-wrestling legend and inventor of Shooto Satoru Sayama, a camp with Greg Jackson in New Mexico and trying to imagine a seemingly impossible path to victory.

Q: How do you spend your time while you are away from fighting?

A: I was kind of relaxed in January, I got a fight offer from SRC for the March event but unfortunately I couldn't make it due to an injury I sustained in January. I spent the whole of February healing the injury. I went to the States after I received a fight offer for this upcoming SRC. Then came back and have been doing some adjustment this past month.

Q: From when to when were in you in the States?
A: From the end of April to the end of May. About a month.

Q: You visited Greg Jackson?
A: That's right. In Albuquerque, New Mexico. The city is in high altitude. About 1,600m high. It was my second visit. I visited there last November. Before the fight against KID.

Q: Have you done any training specifically for Marlon Sandro?
A: Yes, I started after I came back from the States, but I've been imagining about Marlon while I was there, meaning that I found someone who physically looked like Sandro to do sparring with and all sorts of thing. As for strategy, I start building it up after I came back to Japan.

Q: Who did you train with when you were in States?
A: There were no well-known fighters. I thought I could train with one 64kg guy, but he got injured before I arrived there. There was one 70kg guy who fought in UFC and I trained with him sometimes. There were no well-known fighters to train with, but the content of the camp was very satisfying.

I feel that I can now understand a South American or Latin type of punching rhythm that my opponent has. I guess that was the biggest thing I got.

Q: Do you think you can visualize the fight against Sandro?
A: Well, yes. Visualize...? Yes. He doesn't have any weaknesses. So I always try to visualize what I should do against him to win. But I'm not trying to find his weaknesses. My weapon is my MMA skills, so I would like to utilize both ground and striking techniques.

Q: As fight approaches, do you think the existence of Sandro in you gets bigger each day?
A: I felt fear after I heard about the match. Just a little bit. But as I continue training, my confidence is growing bigger. I'm kind of looking forward to it now. Sandro is a world class fighter and this is my big opportunity to see where I am in the world. Even if I go down, I definitely want to try. I always want to challenge the best. Also, I'm not obsessed with champion belt.

Q: Meaning, it is more important to be strong than winning a belt?
A: Yes. If this was my retirement match, I'd love to win for sure, but it's not. I think winning a belt is one of the steps to becoming stronger.

Q: You mentioned that your MMA skills are your weapon. Comparing Sandro and you, who do you think is superior in MMA skills?
A: He is superior overall. He has skills, explosiveness, speed on the ground, etc. But the interesting thing about MMA is that it is not just adding up skills. He is superior overall, but if this match up is right for me, I'll probably land more punches than him. No one can foresee what's gonna happen. That's the beauty of this sport. I guess Sandro versus me is a good match up for me. I don't think I am inferior or anything like that. He is tough for sure, though.

Q: This upcoming fight against Sandro consists of five rounds. What's your plan? Aggressive from the beginning?
A: I'm gonna think about it after I get on the ring. I really don't build any strategies against anyone. My strategy is to show things I have done in training. I'm not concerned about how many rounds there are and other stuff. I'm going to rely on my instinct.

Q: Did you watch the fight between Hatsu Hioki versus "Lion" Takeshi Inoue?
A: Yes.

Q: Any thoughts on Hioki?
A: He is strong. I lost against him once, I can't say that I want to fight him again yet. I have to be strong enough so that Hioki one day points out myself as his opponent. To be strong, I have to beat Sandro this time for sure.

Q: What kind of fight would you like to have?
A: I want to show everything I've done in the training. No regrets. Last year, I got a great result and I understand that all the things I've been doing in my career has been correct. I keep believing in myself. There are many people supporting me. I want to fight for them too. Also, I guess it's boring if current champion is Brazilian. I want to get a good result for SRC. Japanese people are very excited now because of FIFA World Cup. For me, it's not something I do it for my own country really, but I feel that I can't lose against Sandro.

Q: I saw you watching the pro-wrestling match between Satoru Sayama vs Genichiro Tenryu back in March.
A: Yes, I was there. There's many things that I can learn from pro-wrestling. They are very professional. Mr. Sayama advised me on many things, he taught me how to fight against Brazilians this time.

Q: What did he tell you?
A: Oh, you ask me that question?! Well, it's okay... I guess I can answer. Up until now, Sandro is mostly undefeated and he is confident about his punches. Probably that will be his weakness. To keep this in mind, how I can move and throw punches against confident puncher. I'm now getting used to throwing lots of smaller punches.