Masayuki Kikuiri is coming off a disappointing defeat at Pancrase 320. He dropped a decision to the experienced Akihiro Murayama, only the second loss of his entire career.

Reflecting on that result and performance Kikuiri acknowledges that experience was a factor,

“I felt the difference in his veteran status. That was the biggest thing. My MMA experience, including amateur, is much less, so I felt that was the biggest difference.”

This Sunday he faces Hiromitsu Miura in the Pancrase 322 headliner. Kikuiri has only been a professional since 2017 but says he has started to train much more seriously in recent months,

“Overall, to raise my level I’ve been training with various people, but recently, the biggest difference is my grappling. I don’t know if we’ll even grappling in this match, but I started proper jiu jitsu training recently, and I feel my technique is coming on. So, if it goes to the ground, I’d like to show that.”

Akihiro Murayama punches Masayuki Kikuiri 2

Keisuke Takazawa / FIGHTGRAPH

Reach and range

Kikuuri has been matched with a more experienced opponent again this Sunday and expects Miura to make an aggressive start,

“He’ll come out looking to land strong hooks from the first round. The majority of his wins are from punch knockouts, so it’ll all become very clear from round one.”

However Kikuiri is confident he can use his reach and range to keep the former welterweight King of Pancrase at bay,

“I have the longer reach, so I have to use it so I don’t get caught. That’s the main point for me this time.”

Masayuki Kikuiri punches Akihiro Murayama

Keisuke Takazawa / FIGHTGRAPH

Lacking confidence

Kikuiri has spent his entire career with Pancrase and has won six fights out of nine. He has established himself as one of the promotion’s top welterweights but admits that confidence is an issue,

“Honestly, since starting to compete in the martial arts I haven’t really had confidence. I think even from here on in, gaining confidence is (not) such an easy thing. When I accept a fight, I fire myself up as much as possible, but it’s different from confidence. That’s my style.”

Kikuiri fought three times in 2020 and acknowledges that he was fortunate to compete so frequently during such an unusual year,

“For sure, I’m very grateful for that. Last year, some fighters didn’t even get one match, so for me it was a year I could really gain a lot from the martial arts.”

Akihiro Murayama takes down Masayuki Kikuiri

Keisuke Takazawa / FIGHTGRAPH

Well prepared

Miura was last seen in action at Pancrase 309 in 2019. It was put to Kikuiri that this might mean he is suffering from ring rust but the 25 year old thinks his opponent’s experience is enough to nullify this,

“He does have a long career so I think he’ll fight well and bring it. I’m prepared for the challenge of a very grueling match.”

Kikuiri has never suffered back to back defeats. He doesn’t take any opponents lightly but admits that the disappointment of defeat at Pancrase 320 has fired him up ahead of Sunday’s fight,

“I lost my last one, so I know I have to take a solid win. I’m prepared, well I’m always prepared, but this time I’ll show just how ready I am.”