It seems like expanding in Asia means more spots in the UFC roster for the Japanese fighters.
Last week, former DEEP champion Katsunori Kikuno, in his blog, revealed that he did sign with UFC, and hoping to make an Octagon debut in the January 4th Singapore show.
Recently, UFC added Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shunichi Shimizu, and Kiichi "Strasser" Kunimoto to their roster and Kikuno is the fourth Japanese that got picked up by worlds' largest MMA promotion in last four weeks.
Although he is known for a karate kick but Kikuno was a member of judo team from seventh grade till end of high school. After graduating from Tsurumamaru high school in Kagoshima, Kikuno joined Kyokushin Karate Kagoshima branch. He trained karate at this dojo for next six years, under various instructors including Kyokushin Karate world champion Hitoshi Kiyama.
Age 23, he moved to Tokyo, joined Tsuyoshi "TK" Kosaka's team ALLIANCE-SQUARE to pursue his goal of becoming the strongest fighter.
Kikuno told ADCC News, "I started kakutougi (martial arts) because I wanted to be the strongest, and there is no doubt that the current champion of the UFC is the world's number one fighter."
Besides taking about a year of break in 200y due to the knee injury, Kikuno's career in pro MMA has been quite impressive. In 2009 he become DEEP lightweight champ and signed with DREAM.
In DREAM 10, Kikuno defeated Andre "Dida" Amado, then for the first time in his pro career, tasted a loss against Eddie Alvarez. Kikuno came back strong with a KO win over UFC veteran Kuniyoshi Hironaka in DREAM 13, then, lost a close split decision to Strikeforce veteran Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante Souze, followed by a convincing unanimous decision over Daisuke Nakamura. So, Kikuno was 3-2 in DREAM.
Meanwhile he continued to defend DEEP title but in August 2011, Kikuno lost a decision to UFC / Strikeforce veteran Mizuto Hirota.
However, from October 2012, Kikuno posted five straight wins (3 KO's and 1 submission) and that probably is the reason why he got an opportunity in the Octagon. Obviously, UFC prefers finisher over fighters that tend to take their fights to judges' score cards.
Apparently Kikuno is asking for January 4th Singapore show as his first fight in the Octagon but Kikuno said, "I am prepared to fight anywhere anytime" so if its not in Asia he sounded like he is OK in the States or Europe or anywhere.
Report by Shu Hirata
Photo by Ichiro Fujisato