Isao Kobayashi is the reigning featherweight King of Pancrase. His next bout is booked for July 24th although that belt won’t be on the line.

The 31 year old is set to face Akira Okada in a non title bout. His opponent has spent much of his career competing in the lightweight division and Kobayashi knows he will need to be wary of his power,

“He’s got that one punch KO power along with wrestling skills. He’s powerful and tends to swing big so I have to make sure I don’t get caught.”

Okada will be making his featherweight debut. Kobayashi knows he will be the taller of the two fighters but expects his opponent to possess strength and power,

“He always looks incredibly thickset. He’s naturally a big guy, so I’ve no idea how the weight cut will affect him, but I have to go in thinking he’s in top condition.”

MMA Planet / Keizuke Takazawa

Satisfying result

At Pancrase 309 last October he scored a split decision win over Kyle Aguon to become the undisputed featherweight King of Pancrase. Having lost to the same opponent a couple of years previously this was a particularly satisfying result for Kobayashi,

“Well, I’d lost to Kyle once before, but now I was the champion and he was the challenger. I looked back on our first match to see why I’d lost. So, it was good I got revenge combined with defending my title.”

Kobayashi says he has been able to put together a regular training camp for this fight despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,

“The gym has restarted and my training has gradually returned to normal. I haven’t made any big changes but I’ve been studying (my opponent), working hard in training and focusing on what needs done.”

MMA Planet / Keizuke Takazawa

Serious preparation

To prepare for this bout Kobayashi has been training at a number of places including the famous Krazy Bee camp,

“I’ve been training at my own gym, Never Quit, and Krazy Bee. I’ve also been getting Muay Thai instruction at Ant Gym, and strength and conditioning with a personal instructor at PML Gym. I’ve got lot of great people around me.”

During lockdown Kobayashi was forced to train by himself but he made the best of the situation,

“There was a period when I couldn’t train as normal so I just did what I could by myself (but) it’s not just me everybody was in the same situation.”

Four of his last five fights have been the distance. Kobayashi would like to start scoring more stoppage wins and has been working on this element of his game,

“I want to show my improvements, that I’m stronger than before and to give a good performance for the fans. I feel I’ve brought my conditioning to the next level and added new skills. I’ve been more aware in training of working on finishing the fight so I really want to get the finish. I’ve improved my finishing techniques on the feet and on the ground.”

MMA Planet / Keizuke Takazawa

Despite that Kobayashi does not plan to go toe to toe with Okada. He wants to avoid getting dragged into a war of attrition and hopes to slowly pick his opponent off,

“I’m not really sure how he’s going to come at me (but) he’s a powerful fighter and if we both go in hard it’ll wear us down. But, if I can chip away and wear him down I might find my chance there.”

While Kobayashi won’t be defending his title he is still the featherweight King of Pancrase and wants to prove that he is a worthy champion,

“I’m out to show a sharp new version of myself, a champion different from the rest.”