Mikihito YamagamiWhile he might not be widely known in the U.S., current Shooto 115-pound champion Mikihito Yamagami is looking to change that in 2013.

As Yamagami told MMAWeekly.com during a recent training excursion to California, his goal for this year is simple: make it to the biggest stage of MMA.

“As we all do know, the UFC is the best and the biggest stage of all MMA in the world, so I am driven to be a part of it and climb up to the top,” said Yamagami.

“However, I have not had any cage fight experience or not fought under the unified MMA rules, so I will need to fight in a cage under the unified MMA rules in Japan or any other country first and win to deserve a shot in the Octagon.”

With the UFC not currently fielding a 115-pound weight class, Yamagami was asked if he would be willing to move up in weight to 125 pounds to meet with UFC criteria.

“I have kickboxed at 55kg (122 lbs.) for the R.I.S.E. promotion in Japan, and it has been very tough cutting weight to 115 pounds lately, so I have decided to go up the weight class to 125 pounds,” he responded. “I walk around at 142 pounds, so I am confident that I will be able to maximize my body’s potential at flyweight.

“I will need to build more muscle and cardio along the way. My goal is not to just fight at flyweight, but to become the best in the division, so I will watch my diet and improve my training method to one day become like Dominick Cruz, who I respect most in the UFC.”

Previous Shooto champions such as Takanori Gomi, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shinya Aoki have had difficulties transitioning to the American style of cage fighting. As he alluded to earlier, Yamagami knows he’ll have to make adjustments if he wants to be successful enough to get a shot at the UFC.

“Not just fighting in cage being an issue, I know I will have to understand how the unified MMA rules function and how MMA fights are fought in 3×5 and 5×5 (minute rounds),” he said.

“I was at Alliance MMA today, and Coach Eric Del Fierro had great advice on counter moves plus their set-ups of ins and outs. I will need to drill on these and also need to build cardio that keeps me moving and working throughout rounds.”

With only one fight in 2012, Yamagami is eager to get busy this year to make his goal of fighting in the UFC happen sooner than later.

“VTJ (Vale Tudo Japan) and Heat FC are having cage events under the unified MMA rules and PXC (Pacific Xtreme Combat) and Road FC could find me flyweight fights, so I would like to fight at least three bouts this year,” he said. “As far as North America is concerned, Resurrection FA or other promotions that book flyweight fights are on my radar to prepare myself for the UFC fights.

“I’ll take one step at the time. No rush because my goal is not just to sign with the UFC, but to win in the UFC and become the UFC champion. I know I’m still an unknown fighter of Japan, but I will climb my way up to make a name in this sport. I will fight hard so that MMAWeekly readers will remember my name!”

(Photo courtesy of Tapology.com)

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