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Sanae Kikuta: Losing 37 Pounds in Seven Weeks

Sanae Kikuta is one of the unsung legends of Japanese MMA. A former light heavyweight King of Pancrase, 2001 88kg ADCC Champion, founder of the highly successful GRABAKA gym, and sporting a record of 28-6-3, Kikuta has been consistently winning since 1996.

Now at 38 years old, and after almost 18 months of inactivity, Sanae Kikuta is making a drastic change. Spending most of his career at 200 lb and at some points getting as heavy as 207 lb, Kikuta will make the first cut of his career, all the way down to 170 lb.

Prior to his bout with Yasubey Enomoto at SRC 13, Kikuta met with the press to discuss his uniquely Japanese way of losing weight and his thoughts on fighting an unknown foe.

Q: How is your condition?

A: My condition is just as I imagined. Which is good.

Q: I heard that this is the most weight you have lost since junior high school.

A: Not just losing this much weight, but also being 76 kg is something I haven't experienced in a long time. I weigh about 90 kg normally, and I was a little bit more than 90 kg when I started losing weight for this fight. I feel very light now.

Q: Light, meaning during training?

A: That's right. Especially when I throw punches, I feel my punches are very sharp. But I know MMA is different from boxing and kick boxing, so being light is disadvantageous sometimes. Probably I would be better off being a bit heavier for ground moves.

Q: How much do you weigh now (June 10th)?

A: Now? Well, I want keep it a secret... Well, around 84kg.

Q: Is that as you planned?

A: Yes. My weight control is going well.

Q: You said that you have to eat konnyaku (a low calorie, high fiber gelatinous Japanese food) and other low-calorie food to lose weight at the last press conference. How are you eating these days?

A: Yes, I said that. I eat like 5 times a day and drink lots of water to keep my metabolism up. As you can see, I sweat a lot even though I just moved a little bit for this open training session. I tried not to eat much in the past, but I eat regularly these days. My condition is very good.

Maintaining good health and to losing weight is very different. Up until now, I mixed losing weight and maintaining my health. If you want just lose weight, a low carb diet is good, but it is difficult for me to maintain power that I need when I don't take carbohydrates. So I mixed. I will shift myself more to "losing weight" mode from now.

Q: Meaning, amount of food you eat will decrease?

A: That's right. The amount of food that I eat will be very small and adjust myself with water at the very end.

Q: So, you need to lose about 15kg now ?

A: You can say that. About 15kg.

Q: How much did you weigh at the heaviest?

A: At the heaviest? I weighed about 94-95kg. I think I could publish a good book on losing weight.

Q: What was the hardest part of losing weight?

A: I haven't had that much hardship, but sometimes I can't move a lot when I feel like I don't have much energy. And losing weight means the amount of muscle is decreasing in my body. That is quite hard.

Q: When exactly did you start losing weight for this upcoming fight?

A: 7 weeks ago. If I am going to continue fighting in this weight division, I'm not going to gain weight after the fight like before.

Q: I guess you researched your opponent, Yasubei?

A: Yes, but I won't be able to see his MMA fights. So he is still a man of mystery. I heard that his striking technique is good at the beginning, so I said I'm gonna respond to it with my instinct, but as I get more information about him, he is more like a ground guy. I prefer a striker, but... I guess his ground technique is very good. Good and tricky. I haven't seen a guy who does shoulder locks, leg locks, triangle hold, rubber guard, front choke and all sorts of stuff during the fight like he does. I'm not underestimating him.

Q: Do you think he is the type of fighter you have never faced before?

A: I guess so. He has that many techniques on the ground and kicks at the same time. Anyway, he is good. I guess his trickiness is close to Carlos Newton as he moves a lot and shows good ground skills. I am nervous and excited at the same time now to face him.

Q: Do you think this match would go on to the ground?

A: Definitely, yes.

Q: As a world champion, lots of fans are expecting to see you win decisively.

A: I don't know... I heard that he has 90 wins in a grappling matches. Not so many fighters have more than 100 fights in a career even if they are grapplers. It is just amazing to have that much experience. I won ADCC once and my overall record in Abu Dhabi is like 4-1. That's it. So it will be like 4 victories vs. 90 victories. I know that he weighed 88kg when he fought in Abu Dhabi, so I guess we don't have that much difference physically.

Q: So, you are going to decide whether you will stick to welterweight or not after this fight?

A: Yes.

Q: Your next goal would be set after this fight?

A: Yes. Including losing weight, I guess everything would be easier for me after this fight. This is my first ever fight in this weight division, so weight control is very tough. As I get used to this weight, I guess there won't be a problem.

Q: Is there anything, any special technique that you prepared for this fight?

A: Not in particular. Just that I don't have much experience fighting against grapplers, so I am careful. Careful like the time I fought against Nogueira. It will be nice if he stands with me, but If he doesn't, our fight will be just like the one Kitaoka had in Pancrase. Sparring on the ground. I am looking forward to it.

Q: What are you focusing on the most during training?

A: During training? I have to do some cardio training to lose weight. It is difficult for me to find a training partner who does similar stuff, so I spar a lot with Sasaki, he is good on the ground. I am doing the review on ground techniques.