Minowaman, a legend among hardcore fight fans, is headed to the RIZIN Fighting Federation ring.
The 44-year-old, who has competed in well over 100 mixed martial arts bouts and many pro wrestling matches, will take on jūryō-ranked sumo Tsuyoshi Sudario at RIZIN 26 inside the Saitama Super Arena on New Years Eve.
Considering the legend has fought just about everywhere else on earth, this debut in RIZIN ring, the biggest promotion in his native Japan, feels like a long time coming. But according to the man himself, the timing is perfect.
“I was actually hoping to get the opportunity to fight for RIZIN,” he told BJPENN.com ahead of his RIZIN 26 fight with Sudario. “I was thinking about it about a month before I got the offer so I think it was meant to be.
“It did take time, but I think it is the right timing.”
RIZIN 26, like all New Years Eve shows in Japan, will be a massive spectacle by all accounts. Minowaman has competed on many similar year-end cards in the past, but not since 2013. To be fighting on New Years Eve again, he says, is “awesome,” and he’s feeling well prepared for the task at hand.
“I was basically training every day [this year],” he said. “Working on my injuries as well.
“I have been training with my teammates,” he added. “I did some training with [Kazushi] Sakuraba too.”
Despite his confidence, Minowaman is not taking his upcoming foe, a decorated sumo with a 1-0 mark in MMA, lightly.
“I think he is a very strong and powerful individual,” he said of Sudario. “I don’t see him as a Sumo wrestler. He’s an athlete.
“But I have many patterns ready to finish him.”
Minowaman’s coolness ahead of his RIZIN debut can be attributed, in large part, to his experience. The Japanese veteran has been fighting since 1996, when many newer fight fans were still in diapers, and has battled countless stars—many of whom, like Sudario, have been bigger than him.
Over the course of his 116-fight pro career, the natural middleweight has taken on Evan Tanner, Travis Fulton, Semmy Schilt, Chris Lytle, Paulo Filho, Ricardo Almeida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, Gilbert Yvel, Murilo Bustamante, Sakuraba, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Eric “Butterbean” Esch, Zuluzinho, Don Frye, Bob Sapp, Hong Man Choi, Satoshi Ishii, Alexander Shlemenko and Oli Thompson—to name a very small few.
Despite his many wars—some being unforgettable wins, and others tough losses—he’s still competing today, and he has no immediate intention of stopping.
“I have always thought about fighting as long as I can,” he said. “So yes I did imagine me fighting in 2020 [back when I started in 1996].
“I have no idea [how long I’ll keep going],” he said. “But as long as my body allows me to compete.
“I think taking care of your body and taking proper time off when you get injured [is the key to longevity].”
Minowaman isn’t looking for squash matches either.
The 44-year-old has his eyes on world titles. He would also welcome a fight with former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who recently parted ways with the UFC, and is one of the few MMA legends he’s yet to meet on the canvas.
“I want to become a champion again,” Minowaman said when asked about his remaining goals.
“If I get the opportunity [to fight Anderson Silva], I will put in my best efforts to defeat him,” he added.
Whatever the future holds, Minowaman intends to continue fighting his heart out with his fans in mind.
“My favorite moments are when my fans, friends and family are happy with my performance,” the Japanese legend said. “I am grateful. I am still here because of their support.”
“I am excited to be able to deliver my performance to two generations. The fans who watched me fight in PRIDE will watch me fight with their children. I promise to show you an explosively inspiring wacky fight.”