Roberto Satoshi scored one of the fastest wins of his MMA career to capture the inaugural RIZIN Fighting Federation lightweight gold recently in Tokyo, Japan, surprising himself with how easy it went against Tofiq Musayev.
Musayev was on a 14-fight winning streak over the likes of Patricky Pitbull, Johnny Case, Damien Brown and Daron Cruickshank going into RIZIN 28, but it only took 72 seconds for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist to tap the 2019 grand prix winner with a triangle choke.
“I was very nervous for this fight, actually,” Satoshi said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “He was destroying everyone in the promotion, beating big-name opponents like Pitbull. I was very concerned with this fight, I won’t deny it. He has great striking, he was dropping everyone with his heavy hands, but, I don’t know, it was his responsibility [to win]. He was the man, he was the grand prix champion, so I had no pressure to win. I was relaxed because of that.”
Satoshi admits he expected to find more resistance in Musayev’s takedown attempts, but quickly realized “his hips weren’t that heavy,” and he would be able to secure a submission.
“He’s unique on the feet, no doubt about it, but there’s no match on the ground,” Satoshi said. “I feel I can submit anyone on the ground.”
The jiu-jitsu specialist calls his RIZIN 28 victory his “biggest accomplishment as an athlete,” especially since he was the first MMA fighter to win a belt inside the historic Tokyo Dome since PRIDE: Final Conflict 2003. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira won the interim heavyweight belt over Mirko Cro Cop that night, with Wanderlei Silva winning the middleweight grand prix with a pair of victories over Hidehiko Yoshida and “Rampage” Jackson.
Satoshi considers retiring from jiu-jitsu now that he’s the RIZIN lightweight champion, and hopes to make a name for himself — and loads of money — in Japan, a place he has called home for over a decade. The 31-year-old doesn’t know who will be the first to challenge him for the 155-belt, but expects it to be a Japan-based fighter since the country still has travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many people asked me [about fighter pay in Japan] and I say that RIZIN is like soccer,” he said. “You’ll have a player making millions and someone from the same team and same position making less. It’s about how much you sell, which in a way is like the UFC. Thank God I’m promoting the company well, my fights always end with finishes, I’m always exciting the fans. I make good [money] in RIZIN, I have no desire to go to the UFC. I would hardly make in the UFC what I make in RIZIN. The Japanese MMA market is good for me financially [laughs].”
More than good pay, Satoshi says he values the good relationship between fighter and promoter in RIZIN over the tales he hears from UFC veterans.
“One thing I like very much about RIZIN is that I feel the event isn’t made for them, it’s made for the athletes,” he said. “I feel important here. I don’t feel I’m a guy that might lose two fights and they will say, ‘Oh, go away, you’re not selling for guys anymore. Bye.’ And I feel that’s the case in the UFC. I’ve seen many top Brazilian athletes that could fight for the belt when they were well and [the UFC] would keep them. And when they lost two or three, they would say, ‘You’re not selling, go away. Bye.’ You see top fighters that [the UFC] sent letters like, ‘Thank you very much, but from now on you’re no longer part of the UFC roster.’
“The recognition I have here in RIZIN is out of the ordinary. I’ve won many titles in jiu-jitsu, I’ve won gold medals in many tournaments, but, unfortunately, only the jiu-jitsu community recognized me here in Japan. I fought [Sunday] and stopped for a moment on my way home and four or five people came to take pictures with me, congratulate me, say they were happy that I brought the belt to Japan. This recognition is very gratifying. That would be cool in the UFC, but I think the Japanese audience, where I live, where I teach classes, values more the fact that I’m fighting for RIZIN here in Japan.”