Mizuki Inoue made her UFC debut as a flyweight. The 26 year old has struggled to find the right division over the years but says her long term future is at 115lbs.

She is set to face Amanda Lemos in a strawweight bout at UFC on ESPN 15 in Las Vegas this weekend. Ahead of the bout Inoue confirmed she has no plans to compete at flyweight again,

“I think strawweight is the best division for me. I did fight at the flyweight but because of the height difference I don’t think I can win title on that division.”

Inoue is based long term in New York. The decision to relocate has proved serendipitous because it means she is eligible to compete on the current UFC cards without having to go through any sort of quarantine procedure.

Best place 

She feels that the time had finally come to spread her wings and experience training outside of Japan,

“I came to US, which I believe is the best place to train MMA, to learn skills I don’t have. Also I have been training more than ten years so I wanted to see different scenery.”

Inoue has been sparring with some UFC fighters ahead of her second octagon outing,

“I am with Serra Longo Fight Team but for this fight camp I also went to Muay Thai gym in NYC called Ultimate Gym three times a week to do privates. Both gyms arranged many sparring partners for me so I was able to spar a lot with Katlyn Chookagian, Erin Blanchfield, Elise Reed and some other fighters from New Jersey as well.”

Training with Chookagian made Inoue realize that she would only get so far fighting at 125lbs,

“I think I did gain bit of confidence by fighting at flyweight (at UFC Shenzhen) but after sparring with Katlyn I am actually confident that I won’t able to beat a top fighter in the flyweight division.”

Sibling support

Her brother, Naoki Inoue, was living and training with her in New York. But he flew back to Japan in order to compete at Rizin 22.

He would normally be in Inoue’s corner but she says it simply wasn’t possible for this fight,

“My brother went back to Japan in March when lockdown came into an effect. So for that fight in Rizin he did the entire fight camp in Japan. Right now if he came back to New York he would have to deal with mandatory two-week quarantine and he should be training now so this time he decided to not come. When Covid-19 has settled, I will bring him in as one of my corner men though.”

Inoue enjoyed a lot of success while training in Japan. But she thinks that the depth of knowledge and experience in the US is deeper,

“It is hard to say in one sentence but my impression is that everybody (in Japan) is not truly a top class at every departments of MMA in terms of technique. For example, my striking coach in Japan was very professional and he also taught me grappling and throws but it’s really hard to find just one person that can teach everything.”

Happy and honored

She says being based at Serra-Longo means that everything she needs is within easy reach whereas back home Inoue would need to find multiple gyms or coaches,

“In Japan, no gym is teaching every part of MMA but in the US fighters get to learn from specialists in each department. That is what, so many fighters here are very good at striking, wrestling, grappling and every aspect of this fight game.”

Inoue hopes the time and effort she has put into training will pay off on Saturday night (local time). She believes her boxing will be the difference,

“She is aggressive and likes to kick to the leg and swing big shots but I am confident that my boxing skill is better so I am looking to dominate her in every aspect of the game.”

Inoue’s UFC opportunity only came about because the promotion needed a replacement for Luana Carolina at UFC Shenzhen. She made the most of it, scoring a split decision win over Yanan Wu.

Her second UFC fight has been almost a year in the making. She saw a bout with Tecia Torres fall through but is delighted to finally be able to resume her fighting career,

“I am so happy and honored to be able to fight for UFC. Finally, I am fighting at this stage and I have a chance to prove what I can do.”