Keisuke Sasu will be defending his Shooto Pacific Rim featherweight title on Sunday. The 26 year old will be looking to secure his sixth straight win when he faces Karate specialist Taison Naito.
Victory at Shooto 0131 would surely be enough to earn him a shot at the main title. But Sasu already has his sights set on bigger things,
“Rather than aiming for Shooto’s world title I want to beat a really strong opponent and get signed by the UFC, even if it’s difficult to go abroad due to Corona,” he told MMA Planet.
Sasu is realistic about how difficult this would be to do. Several Japanese fighters have been released by the UFC in recent months and the promotion seems more focused on acquiring up and coming Chinese talent.
But Sasu can see one clear path that would lead him to the UFC,
“To do that (earn a UFC contract) I would need to defeat a strong featherweight in Japan. I think that is Yutaka Saito. I would rather fight him than fight for the Shooto world title and if Saito doesn’t come back here (to Shooto) I have to go there (to Rizin).”
Saito went from Shooto to Rizin and won the promotion’s featherweight title in his second fight. Sasu would like to do something similar even if his ultimate ambition is to compete in the octagon.
Forwards and forwards
First he will have to overcome Naito this weekend and he outlines his strategy for this and every fight as follows,
“I aim for the finish. I will always keep attacking. I am a person who goes forwards and forwards in a fight and I will put that type of pressure on my opponent.”
His opponent has a karate style and is known for his kicks but Sasu is not sure how suitable this approach is for MMA,
“He is a strong fighter who will not give up. He has a high kick from distance but you have to be careful about kicking with your feet raised, which is unique to karate.”
Having fought twice in 2020 he was able to stay relatively active despite the pandemic and Sasu says he is in good shape heading into Sunday’s fight,
“I got the offer about a month ago. I was already training for my next fight so I was ready.”
His opponent has won two out of his last three and Sasu admits he was surprised to be offered a title defence against Naito,
However he doesn’t have any complaints about the choice of opponent,
“I am not unhappy about this matchup.”
But for Sasu it is not just about the result. He has set his sights on the UFC roster and believes the only way to get there is to clear out the featherweight division and do it in style,
“In the end if you can’t beat all the other fighters (in Japan) easily you won’t get to the UFC. I’m going to overwhelm everyone to get there.”