Masayuki Kikuiri scored the fifth win of his career at Pancrase 316 last week. The 25 year old finished BJJ black belt Yuta Nakamura midway through the second round in their welterweight clash.

Having failed to win his previous two fights Kikuiri was under a lot of pressure as he prepared to face the 47 fight veteran. He even contemplated retirement,

“I thought about retiring if I lost. I definitely had to win this and I went in with that same feeling thinking about everyone supporting me. I just fought with a ‘cannot lose’ spirit,” he said.

Kikuiri did not lose. His career is back on track and after the fight he took time to reflect on the setbacks he had suffered prior to this win,

“I’d had a year off, my comeback fight was against (Yusuke) Kasuya and I got beaten up in the first round. I was coming off four straight wins, so to get smashed by someone so strong in the first round made me lose confidence at first. I thought ‘I can’t lose like this’ so I rode that feeling.”

Keisuze Takazawa / MMA Planet

Sense of urgency

Kikuiri fought to a draw with Yasuaki Kishimoto at Pancrase 307. He feels a lack of confidence following his maiden defeat at Pancrase 304 was not the only factor which adversely affected his performance that day,

“It was a draw. The weight cut was hard, I dropped around 20kgs and didn’t feel I was moving well.”

At the age of 26 Kikuiri might be entitled to feel his best days as a fighter are ahead of him. But he believes that the clock is ticking on his career and is determined to seize the moment,

“I’m 25 now. Most people are just working, but I’m doing a part-time job and training at the same time. So, I’m always thinking that I can’t keep going like this. My sense of urgency has really grown my spirit.”

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

Thrilling exchanges

The fight with Nakamura produced some thrilling exchanges. It was fun for the fans in attendance and Kikuiri says he enjoyed it too,

“It felt like no matter how many times I hit him, he just kept getting up. It started to get scary! I think we both got the same feeling and I really enjoyed it.”

This was Kikuiri’s welterweight debut and he has found a new home in this division. The Team Never Quit representative is hoping to be back in the cage in the very near future,

“As soon as possible. I’ve come off a lot of injuries so I want to see how much I can do in the next year. Now that I’m up at welterweight I don’t have to cut as much (and) I want to get up the rankings as fast as I can in a short span.”

Keisuze Takazawa / MMA Planet

Sights set

He expects to break into the welterweight rankings. Kikuiri’s plan is to work his way towards the top spot by taking out the other contenders one by one,

“I should be in the rankings with this so I’d like to fight someone above me. I’m just starting in the division, so I can’t really say this guy or that guy but I’ll take out everyone in front of me.”

But there is one fight that Kikuiri already has his sights set on. He wants a shot at reigning welterweight King of Pancrase Hiroyuki Tetsuka,

“The champion (Hiroyuki) Tetsuka is undoubtedly strong. His striking is good, he’s got takedowns and the reason I’ve come to this division is to face Tetsuka. You have to face the champion and I’m here to fight him.”