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Yoshiyuki Yoshida in Singapore

It wasn’t long ago that Japanese Judoka Yoshiyuki Yoshida was making his debut in the UFC with bright prospects for the future.

In his run to make it to the UFC, Yoshida picked up a dominant win over former top ten fighter Akira Kikuchi, and was coming off a win over future Octagon fighter Dan Hardy as well (although that was by disqualification after an illegal groin strike).

Yoshida’s Octagon career started off well when he choked out former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor War Machine in his debut fight. That’s when his rough patch started.

A knockout loss to Josh Koscheck definitely served as a wake-up call to Yoshida just how tough the competition was in the UFC. He bounced back with a win over Brandon Wolff before suffering another crushing knockout at the hands of Anthony Johnson. That was followed by a decision loss to Mike Guymon before getting bounced from the UFC.

Yoshida got another shot at a big time MMA promotion when he fought in Bellator in 2010, but that didn’t go his way either after being TKO’d by Chris Lozano in his only fight there.

So going into his last fight against Ferrid Kheder, the deck was definitely stacked against Yoshida. He admits that the pressure was mounting off three straight losses, where a fourth may have brought about the end of his career.

“I felt so much pressure before this fight,” Yoshida told MMAWeekly.com. “If I lost that fight, then maybe my career as a MMA fighter would have been done, and I would be looking for an another job.”

It was a hard road to go down for Yoshida. Along with the three losses in a row, he started to lose confidence and then the faith he had in his own abilities started to fade as well.

But through hard work and perseverance in the gym, Yoshida started to break through the wall a little bit at a time. Like chipping away at a piece of sandstone, Yoshida was able to reform himself into the fighter he knew he was just a few years ago, and a better fighter could emerge for the future.

“For this past two years or so, I struggled a lot. I couldn’t win fights and I almost stopped believing in myself, but I just continued training every day and, little by little, I think I got back onto the right track,” said Yoshida.

“So right now I am feeling good, and training with Japan’s top fighters every day.”

The next step in Yoshida’s return will come this weekend at One FC in Singapore where he faces fellow Octagon veteran Phil Baroni. Like past opponents, Yoshida is well aware of the knockout power that Baroni possesses, but it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.

“I know it’s dangerous to exchange punches with Phil. So I have a strategy on how to fight Phil, but just can’t reveal my tactics here,” Yoshida commented.

In the long term, like a lot of fighters, Yoshida would love the chance to prove he belongs in the UFC, but that’s in the distance for now.

Yoshida’s immediate goals only go as far as Singapore, One FC, and a fight with Phil Baroni this weekend.

“Ultimately, I would like to get another chance in the UFC, but, for now, I am only thinking about doing a good fight for One FC and win in the One FC, that’s all,” said Yoshida.

“And if I win, I am sure there will be another opportunity for me.”

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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