Koji Takeda suffered the first setback of his career on his Rizin debut. He dropped a decision to Damien Brown and it’s a painful memory the 25 year old will be looking to erase this month.

Takeda returns at Rizin 24. He’s won back to back title fights since being beaten by the Australian and sees this as the perfect opportunity to redeem that loss,

“I am the current Deep champion but I think this fight will be the fight that will get my foot in the door of the biggest organization in Japan.”

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

First setback

The defeat at Rizin 15 was the first setback of his career and the only blemish on Takeda’s 11-1 record. However he says an injury contributed to that sub par performance,

“I blame that loss on nobody but myself. I injured my back about ten days before the fight, and it was my decision to still fight with an injured back. I was devastated with the loss and it took me time to get over it, but I was able to bounce back with the support of the people around me which I am truly grateful for.”

He bounced back in emphatic style, beating Juri Ohara at Deep 92 and Deep 93. He has beaten that opponent three times and didn’t particularly relish the opportunity to complete a trinity of wins,

“When you fight the same opponent repeatedly you know what he’s wanting to do so you work on not letting him do what he wants to do. It is pretty annoying and not productive but I talked myself into doing it for my own good.”

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

Strong heart

Takeda says he knows what to expect from Yuki Kawana who he faces at the Saitama Super Arena on September 27th. He is confident of overcoming an opponent he has already familiarized himself with,

“He’s a grinder with a strong heart just like me. And his weakness is his grappling. I’ve heard that his losses mostly come from being out grappled so this is something I want to capitalize on.”

Kawana is the reigning Shooto lightweight champion. Takeda holds the same title with Deep and is well aware that promotional pride will be at stake,

“I do feel the extra pressure when it’s brought up, but my mentality is always set on being the challenger at all times. So I don’t think I feel too much pressure.”

Rizin

Longest break

Takeda has not fought since December. It is the longest break of his MMA career and he is relieved to be able to earn a living as a professional fighter again,

“It (Covid-19 restrictions) really didn’t effect my training environment. It was more of a financial concern I had, but I was constantly training hard so that I could take any fight offer.”

Takeda does not just rely on the money he receives from his fight purses. He is also a full time employee at his gym,

“I wrestled my entire life up until college. But once I entered college I started to party and started to drop classes. That was the time I was introduced to the UFC. So I dropped out of college and joined the Brave Gym. I joined when I was 21, and I have been working as a staff there since.“

Having made the decision to put education on the backburner in order to pursue his MMA dreams the 25 year old is totally committed to the sport. He wants to earn a first Rizin win and ultimately follow in the footsteps of Jiri Prochazka and Manel Kape by signing for the UFC,

“I dropped out of college and dropped out of wrestling, so I want to complete a path until the very end.I want to give it all with no regrets. My long term goal is to become the best, so obviously means that I would want to challenge the UFC.”