Alan Yamaniha is flying the flag for Brazil in the Rizin bantamweight Grand Prix. He is the only non Japanese fighter in the 16 man tournament.
The 35 year old has been on the scene for several years without ever really establishing himself as a star. That could be in the process of changing because Yamaniha and his team have taken Japanese MM by storm this year.
He represents Bonsai Jiu Jitsu and saw teammates Roberto de Souza and Kleber Koike Erbst score big wins recently. The former submitted Tofiq Musaev to capture the Rizin lightweight title while the latter put local featherweight legend Mikuru Asakura to sleep.
Yamaniha was able to score a decision win over Kazuma Kuramoto at Rizin 29 earlier this month booking his spot in the quarter finals. He said the confident and belief flowing through his team at the moment is what inspired him to win,
“Everybody passed their winning batons to me. That’s what made me stronger.”
Having spent his career fighting in front of smaller audiences on shows like Pancrase and Deep this was the biggest opportunity of the Brazilian’s career. Yamaniha admits he let the occasion get to him and feels he was not at his best,
“I went for the finish but I couldn’t secure it, I really wanted that submission. I was nervous at first, very nervous. Fighting in the Rizin ring was my dream.”
Nervous and stiff
De Souza sees Yamaniha every day in training. He was in his corner at Rizin 29 and agrees that the bantamweight is a better fighter than his performance that night suggested,
“Hiro was at about 70% today, he was still nervous and a bit stiff. You haven’t seen his full potential yet.”
While Yamaniha was unable to secure the submission he clearly got the better of the striking exchanges. His opponent, a seasoned wrestler, admitted he was surprised by how sharp the BJJ black belt’s stand up skills were.
That card is set for the Saitama Super Arena so Yamaniha will need to work on the psychological side of his game as well as the technical side if he doesn’t want to be completely overawed by the size of the stadium and the significance of the occasion. A spot in the final four and potentially two more fights on New Year’s Eve await the winner.
Yamaniha knows the other bantamweights in the tournament well and realizes that things will only get more difficult as he progressed further. But the Brazilian will use this as a source of motivation and plans to continue working improving alongside his Bonsai Jiu Jitsu team mates,
“Everybody left is very strong so I need to get stronger. I will do my best whoever I face next.”