Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto trained in Canada ahead of UFC 144. |
Photo: Taro Irei
Sergio Cunha worked with Norifumi
“Kid” Yamamoto during his most recent training camp at Mecha
MMA in Toronto, and the
Chute Boxe black belt believes the Japanese star has plenty
left in the tank.
Winless in two Octagon appearances, Yamamoto (18-5, 0-2 UFC) will
face Englishman Vaughan Lee
144 “Edgar vs. Henderson” on Feb. 26 at the Saitama Super Arena
in Saitama, Japan. The 34-year-old last fought at UFC on Fox 1 in
November, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Darren
“Kid Yamamoto will win and put on a great exhibition for his
Japanese fans,” Cunha told Sherdog.com.
Yamamoto elected to train at the Canadian gym in advance of his
bout with Lee, who came up short in his promotional debut against
Cariaso at UFC 138 in November. As part of a family of famous
wrestlers in Japan, Yamamoto rose to MMA prominence under the K-1
Hero’s banner. His father, Ikuei, represented Japan at the 1972
Summer Olympics, and his sisters, Miyu and Seiko, have won world
championships in wrestling. Miyu connected Yamamoto to Cunha.
“The partnership with Kid happened in a very cool way,” Cunha said.
“His sister is a three-time world champion in wrestling and was
training here with our wrestling coach. We started talking about
MMA, and she knew my work because of the guys from Yoshida Dojo.
Then she asked if I could train her brother for his fight; for the
family, it’s the most important of his career because of the UFC’s
return to Japan and because it’s a time of transition and recovery
for MMA in the country.
“Yamamoto’s family has a tradition in the fighting world,” he
added. “The father was a wrestler, and all of the kids are
wrestlers. We agreed to all the details, and Kid came here to make
his camp with me and our team.”
Now in the final stages of his training camp, Yamamoto aims to put
an end to the second two-fight losing streak of his career. Cunha
thinks a return home will benefit him.
“After three months of hard, intense training, we’re getting
towards the end and just preparing for this fight, with a strategy
that puts him in a position of advantage for a good win on home
soil,” Cunha said. “That’s expected from an athlete who has been a
world champion and made his mark in history.”
The Cunha-Yamamoto union was made all the more unlikely by the fact
that the 2005 K-1 Hero’s lightweight grand prix winner enjoyed much
of his success at the expense of Brazilians, including Royler
Fernandes and Rani Yahya.
Cunha has confidence in his new student.
“Kid is very dedicated to doing all the work with a lot of
discipline,” he said. “He has worked to gain muscle mass. A food
company that sponsors him sent him the meals he needed on a daily
basis. We prepared physically and tactically, so, at the time of
the fight, he can execute exactly what we trained.”
Alan Oliveira contributed to this report.