John Dodson will be fighting in Japan for the first time since 2004 this New Year’s Eve. The UFC veteran faces Hideo Tokoro in a flyweight fight at Rizin 40.

This Saturday he will be fighting at the 36,500 capacity Saitama Super Arena. It is a far cry from his first fight in Tokyo which took place at the FM Hall, a venue which can seat exactly 350 people.

Dodson took on Yasuhiro Urushitani who was already a veteran of 11 fights. He dropped a decision to the future UFC and ONE Championship star but at the time it was tough to find fights at flyweight in the US,

“People that I already knew were going out there and making the journey being a star out there in the Land of the Rising Sun and I wanted to be able to do the same thing. It wasn’t going to be much for me in America, because at the time, the lowest weight class they had was 155lbs, and they let go of it and only had 170lbs. So I wanted to go out there and showcase everything and my fighting style was geared towards the Japanese crowd.”

Newly launched

Rizin is launching its flyweight division on December 31st and numerous fighters are dropping down from bantamweight. It means Dodson is potentially just one win away from a title shot and he wants to take on some of the top contenders in the country,

“I look at Rizin as an opportunity for me to go ahead and showcase my my abilities. Everybody out here is real hungry to beat up a legend, and I want to go ahead an beat up any future champions.”

Dodson never won the UFC flyweight title but he came close, losing to Demetrious Johnson during a time when absolutely everybody lost to the all time 125lbs king. He still sees himself as one of the best fighters to ever compete in the division,

“Looking back on my fight career, I’m one of the best flyweights in the world. Henry Cejudo sealed the 125lbs title after I vacated the division, and that could have been me. I’m seeing myself still being in the top three and being the best flyweight in the entire world. So I’m going to go out there and show the rest of the world that I still can do it.”


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Real pride

In 2o11 he won TUF 14 knocking out TJ Dillashaw in the final. That performance has aged well with his opponent going on to capture the UFC bantamweight title and Dodson looks back on it with real pride,

“Knocking out TJ Dillashaw was a phenomenal thing because I got to go ahead and introduce the world to the brutal capabilities that I have and (my) unique personality. Then also the first one with Demetrious Johnson, I went toe-to-toe with the world’s greatest fighter and I looked pretty much equal to him.”

Dodson has fought for titles on four occasions and has lost by decision every time. Two of those defeats might have come at the hands of Johnson but he is still waiting to win his first title.

Winning The Ultimate Fighter is no mean achievement but as he prepares to make his Rizin debut the 38 year old knows exactly what he wants to achieve with the promotion,

“I want to be the champion.”