UFC Singapore: Japanese veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri seizes ‘last chance’ on MMA stage

Japanese MMA fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri during the UFC Singapore open workouts on Wednesday. (Cheryl Tay Photo)
Japanese MMA fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri during the UFC Singapore open workouts on Wednesday. (Cheryl Tay Photo)

One of the biggest things on the daily "to-do list" for Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri is making sure he can put his daughter to sleep every night.

The 35-year-old brawler, recently signed to the world's premier MMA organisation Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), spends time playing with his little girl when not training every other day. She is clearly the other focus in his life, besides MMA.

He was speaking to reporters after an open workout held at Marina Bay Sands ahead of his bout with fellow debutant Sean Soriano on Saturday at the first-ever UFC held in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Kawajiri is “definitely” against his daughter fighting competitively someday, but for now, his thoughts are focussed on getting stronger every day for his long-awaited UFC debut.

He has battled luminaries like Takanori Gomi, Caol Uno, Shinya Aoki, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson and Eddie Alvarez in a long and storied career harking back to 2000.

But fighting in the UFC has always been his dream right from the start and Kawajiri is looking to clinch three wins in 2014 and also make a run for the featherweight (66kg) championship belt.

“Finally I get to step onto the world’s best MMA stage, and this might just be my last chance, so I want to make sure that I do everything I can,” he said.

Kawajiri's most recent fight was on New Year's Eve 2012, when he defeated Michihiro Omigawa by unanimous decision.

Having had to go under the knife for an injury sustained in February 2013, he then spent six months just focusing on training - two times a day, six days a week - and took a break from fighting.

Being without a bout for all of 2013 left Kawajiri despondent, but his signing to UFC has renewed the spirit of a man nicknamed "The Crusher".

He will need all of it -- strength, technique, luck, motivation -- for Florida-based Soriano, who is undefeated with eight wins and zero losses.

Kawajiri is riding on a five-fight winning streak and has been undefeated in four fights since he dropped from lightweight (70kg) to featherweight.

"Cautious" was how he described his approach, but the seasoned fighter also said he will head into the octagon ready to give it his all as though it is his last fight ever.

“I want to break his heart, and I want him to go away thinking, ‘I don’t want to face this guy anymore’," said Kawajiri. "That’s how I fight.”

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