RIZIN lightweight Roberto Satoshi thinks it’s time to move on and crown a new 155-pound king.
The company’s lightweight belt was captured by Tofiq Musayev in December 2019, when he defeated Bellator star Patricky Freire in the RIZIN grand prix final. A global pandemic was followed by a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, forcing Musayev to join the Azerbaijani army and remain sidelined from the MMA world.
Satoshi is now scheduled to face longtime MMA veteran Kazuki Tokudome in the co-main event of Sunday’s RIZIN 27 in Nagoya, Japan, and told MMA Fighting he was in talks with the promotion about a fight with Musayev in December. The fight, however, never materialized due to the champion’s involvement in the conflict.
Ready for his first fight since knocking out Yusuke Yachi this past August, Satoshi celebrates the fact that fans are backing him up in his quest for gold.
“After this event, if there’s any delay, I’ll ask them to do an interim belt,” Satoshi said. “It’s also interesting for the promotion, so they can do a title unification between two belt holders next and the division won’t stop, there are fights going on and the division moves forward.
“It’s not good to when the division stops. You see fighters that become champion and don’t fight anymore and that’s bad because it removes the excitement from the division.”
At the end of the day, Satoshi feels he has a lot to lose and not much to gain by fighting Tokudome in a non-title bout Sunday, but “we’re athletes and have to fight to provide to our homes.”
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “That’s not something I think about during the fight, ‘Oh, if I lose I’ll go back to the end of the line.’ I don’t worry. All I think about is winning convincingly. You have to beat anyone if you want to be the champion, doesn’t matter the order.”
Tokudome is a former Pancrase lightweight champion and a veteran of the UFC, KSW and Sengoku that makes his RIZIN debut after winning two in a row under the ONE Championship banner.
“It will be a tough fight,” Satoshi said. “He’s a tough guy who’s fought for the biggest promotions in the world and has good experience, more than 30 MMA fights, but that doesn’t worry me. It’s good, it gives me plenty of [videos] to study him and see his weaknesses. I wanna show that RIZIN fighters can stand against anyone in the world.”
Satoshi, a jiu-jitsu specialist who has submitted five opponents in a row in a special challenge 13 months ago at RIZIN 21, is confident in his grappling abilities to finish Tokudome once they hit the mat.
He won’t desperately shoot for takedowns, though.
“First, I want to make him uncomfortable on the feet,” he said. “Everybody thinks we’re just jiu-jitsu, so I’ll shock him first on the feet and make him feel our striking, too. I’m confident that I can finish the fight if I take him down and stay on top of him.”