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Goiti Yamauchi looking to make two nations proud at Bellator 144: ‘I feel like I’m unbeatable now’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Japan and Brazil are two of the most powerful countries in MMA, and Goiti Yamauchi is counting on that to gather more support from fans.

Born in Anjo, Japan, the featherweight prospect returns to the Bellator cage Friday night against former "King of Pancrase" Isao Kobayashi, and facing a fellow Japanese talent brings up the history of his family.

"People consider me Japanese here in Brazil," Yamauchi told "Everyone treats me and knows me as Japanese, so I also consider myself Japanese."

He also considers himself Brazilian, even though most Brazilians don’t see him that way.

"My family is Japanese-Brazilian," he explains. "My grandfather is Japanese, and he came to Brazil and met my grandmother, who is Brazilian, and had my mother. She traveled back to Japan, and I was born there. When I was 4, we returned to Brazil, and I never visited Japan since.

"Make two nations proud, that’s what I hope for," he continued. "I was born there, but lived the majority of my life here. I’m proud to be carrying two flags with me. I represent everyone who follows my work, Japan and Brazil."

Facing Kobayashi is a tough challenge for the 22-year-old prospect, who returns to action after pulling out of a bout with former champion Pat Curran due to a knee injury in June.

"I’ve been through a lot of issues, but I was able to finally overcome that and be strong again," he said. "I feel like I’m unbeatable now. I had an LCL injury. My doctor said I’d be ready to train again in two months, but I worked hard on my physical therapy I was able to return quicker."

But he was hoping to be matched-up against Curran now, not Kobayashi.

"I wasn’t expecting to fight Isao now," Yamauchi said. "I was expecting to be matched-up against Pat Curran, or maybe Daniel Weichel. I was really surprised with this fight, but also happy to be fighting a Japanese fighter. This fight is going to be a big deal in Japan, so I’m happy about it."

Yamauchi likes to watch tapes of his opponent’s previous fights, but wasn’t able to do it with Kobayashi, who makes his Bellator debut after an 18-2-4 run in Japan.

"I haven’t watched his tapes much because I couldn’t find them online, but I know he’s left-handed and likes to trade," he said. "He doesn’t have a spectacular ground game, but every fighter is dangerous. I don’t care what he brings, though, because I’m focused on what I can offer."

Looking to go 5-1 under the Bellator banner, Yamauchi feels ready to fight for the featherweight title next in 2016.

"I’m optimistic. I don’t control it, but I’m optimistic, and I feel I don’t have anything left to prove," Yamauchi said. "I was supposed to fight Pat Curran and Daniel Weichel already, but it didn’t happen. I was waiting on one of them now, but they gave me Isao. I’m going there to do my job and win. Let’s see if Scott (Coker) gives me (a title shot) next."

The Bellator featherweight title will be on the line Nov. 6, when Patricio Freire meets Daniel Straus for a third time. Yamauchi expects "Pitbull" to go 3-0 against the American Top Team product, but he knows Straus is no joke.

"Straus is getting better. He lost twice to Patricio already, but he was winning all four rounds before losing in the end," he said. "I think Patricio wins this one, though. He has good weapons, and knows the way to beat Daniel. They are equally good standing, but the difference on the ground is gigantic. Daniel is weaker on the ground."

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