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Michihiro Omigawa Thinks He's Better Than Jose Aldo and Wants to Prove it

Michihiro Omigawa has never been one to keep his thoughts to himself.

As he rose to relevance in Sengoku's 2009 Featherweight GP he would shout "Kusottare!" any time he was given a microphone, essentially telling everyone who doubts him to "f**k off!" Since he reinvented himself for the GP, he has "claimed the necks of" fellow top 10 featherweights Marlon Sandro and Hatsu Hioki and most recently took a submission win over former WEC Champion Cole Escovedo. Afterwards, Omigawa called his DREAM.16 victory "a perfect fight" and declared himself the "center of the featherweight world."

Now, unhappy with the way he is being treated in Japan, Omigawa is setting his sights on the WEC and Jose Aldo.

"For me, the WEC is the top promotion in the States so I'm seriously considering fighting there. I'm very determined and willing to fight in the WEC at some point, and I was exchanging emails with them, but we still haven't met in person. It's not an official offer yet, but we are in talks. Jose Aldo is a well-rounded fighter, and an interesting opponent for me, but technique-wise I am better and I'd like to prove that."

The Yoshida Dojo judoka is now 34 years old (turning 35 in December), and with 10 fights in the last 22 months, it is clear that Omigawa is trying to make the most of his final years in the ring.

"Outside of (DREAM featherweight champion) Bibiano Fernandes or (Shinya) Aoki, I don't really have interest in fighting anyone in DREAM. (Kazuyuki) Miyata is a good friend of mine so it is kind of difficult for us to fight and (Mitsuhiro) Ishida is just not interesting to me."
Really (DREAM) aren't treating me right. All the people in FEG are probably afraid of me.
-- Omigawa

Although no fights are booked for FEG's Dynamite!! New Year's Eve event yet, Omigawa is certain that he will not get a shot at Fernandes as he believes DREAM 2009 featherweight finalist Hiroyuki Takaya is being built up for that fight. Omigawa very vocally has a problem with that as he knocked out Takaya at Dynamite!! in 2009. Essentially giving up on his hopes of a featherweight title in December, Omigawa feels as though he is forced to look elsewhere.

"If I had the opportunity to fight Aoki, I would fight at 70 kg (154 lbs). My mind is already set on featherweight for the future, but the reason I mention Aoki is because of Dynamite!! at the end of the year. I want to do something beyond my weight division, something special."

Although he takes his challenge to Aoki seriously, it is obvious that the challenge comes out of frustration with DREAM rather than any actual desire to do something "special" and move up in weight to take on the DREAM lightweight champion. He admits that the Aoki fight is also not going to happen.

"Really, (DREAM) aren't treating me right. All the people in (DREAM parent company) FEG are probably afraid of me. I'm not one these guys who were with DREAM from the beginning, I am from Sengoku and now I have been building this good record in DREAM and I suddenly mentioned this fight with Aoki and he is someone that they are really fond of. If the event is called DREAM, I'd like them to consider my dreams too. This is a sport and they have to treat someone with a good record in a good way. There is something wrong with the way I'm being treated. It's kind of difficult for me to stay motivated in DREAM to be honest with you if I can't fight Fernandes."

Salaries are not disclosed in Japan, but Omigawa admits that he probably makes more money fighting in DREAM than he would fighting in America. WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo banked $40,000 (including a $20,000 win bonus) after his win over Urijah Faber and Omigawa's base pay is rumored to be more than that in DREAM. Omigawa tells me though that when he defeats Aldo he will become rich, famous and popular but the real attraction to the WEC is that it is a challenge.

After exiting the UFC as a lightweight in 2008 with his record in tatters at 4-6, no one could have predicted that Omigawa would ever have an issue finding a challenging fight. Even his first outings as a featherweight were uninspiring as he lost a decision to "The Korean Zombie" Chang Sung Jung and drew with Mizuho Hirota's former stablemate Shintaro Ishiwatari. The change came not just when he moved down in weight but when he reassessed his life.
The biggest thing I have changed is that I have started to believe in myself.
-- Omigawa

"When I was fighting in the lightweight division, I was getting all those losses, I thought about retiring from this business. I was thinking about my retirement and I really wanted to give it my all before the end. I changed my weight division, changed my daily life and worked on tidying up my techniques. After I made all the positive changes that I could think of, I just kind of exploded."

These changes took place just prior to his fight with the highly rated L.C. Davis in the opening round of the 2009 Sengoku Featherweight GP. Omigawa was rightly a huge underdog going into the bout but surprised all as he seamlessly combined his new bobbing and weaving boxing with his already formidable judo to easily take the unanimous decision.

"The biggest thing I have changed is that I have started to believe in myself. I knew that I was a capable fighter after I won over L.C. Davis, and I didn't want to return to how things were in the past. I wasn't stable mentally or strategy wise before. I shouldn't have been fighting while I didn't have the stable mentality or believe in myself. Ever since that fight, I rarely go out at night with friends. I used to love going out to clubs and drinking at night but as I get older it is getting difficult for me to continue. I finally recognized that I had to stop that. I didn't really drink that much but I really like going out at night and it was more the late nights than the alcohol."

It should be common sense that late nights and alcohol does not mix will with MMA but in Japan, late night eating and drinking is a large part of the culture. Two of the best fighters to ever come out of Japan, Kazushi Sakuraba and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai are notorious for drinking, eating and in Sakuraba's case – even smoking entirely too much. "Nomikai", literally "drinking meeting" is an integral part of Japanese business and social etiquette and the fight world is no different. For Omigawa to cut himself off from the social scene was quite a big deal for him, but it wasn't the only change.

"I changed my training as well, I run a lot now. You see now that I fight very often and my movements in the ring are faster than anyone at featherweight. Technique wise, I started going to Watanabe Boxing Gym and sparring with world-class boxers. In the past I was always getting hit in the body, but I have fixed that problem now. I only spar at Watanabe Gym but just doing that has done a lot of me."

Watanabe Gym is home to WBA super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama and is where Masato Kobayashi polished his boxing before his 2003 K-1 MAX GP win. Since Masato's K-1 victory the gym has become the go-to place in Japan for MMA and kickboxing practitioners to work on their hands.

"My background is judo so I can submit anyone and take anyone down but now, because of my time at Watanabe Gym, I am also very capable with my boxing technique. Now that my boxing has gotten this much better I have become a complete fighter and so it allows me to have more confidence in my judo. I was capable with my judo from the beginning, but because my boxing wasn't good I wasn't able to show that. Now I consider myself in the top three at featherweight and I'm certainly above Bibiano Fernandes. As I fighter, I need to get to the WEC and challenge myself."

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