Motonobu Tezuka’s career resurgence has not only proved his doubters wrong, it has also proved his family and friends right. They were the ones who convinced him to continue fighting after being released by the UFC.

The Japanese legend will compete in his 55th professional mixed martial arts bout on Sunday. He squares off with compatriot Tatsuya Ando at Shooto 0329.

It is quite a development for the 32-year-old, who was handed his UFC walking papers in 2013. He only had two matches under the Las Vegas-based promotion’s banner, falling short to Alex Caceres via split decision and dropping a unanimous decision to Vaughan Lee three months later.

Following two lackluster performances inside the famed octagon, the UFC brass chose to part ways with him. It was a real blow to Tezuka,

“I lost hope at that time. The UFC is the sport’s biggest organization, and I failed and lost my matches there. It was really hard for me to accept,” Tezuka shared through his interpreter.

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

Losing territory

Though he managed to score a decision victory over Taichi Nakajima in his next bout, it did not take too long before Tezuka was back in losing territory. He suffered two demoralizing losses at the hands of Yuta Nezu and former ONE Championship bantamweight kingpin Soo Chul Kim.

Tezuka  seriously contemplated retirement at this stage. But those around the UFC veteran urged him to continue his journey as they believed in his talent and ability,

“My team, my family, and everyone who supported me told me not to give up. Even if I wanted to give up already, they pushed me to continue and motivated me. I would not be here today if it were not for my incredible support system.”

This helped Tezuka change his mental approach towards fighting and the results improved immediately. He put together a three-fight winning streak that saw him capture both Grachan and Heat bantamweight titles.

Despite being a veteran Tezuka has kept himself extremely busy. Since being released by the UFC in 2013 he has fought 25 times.

Keisuke Takazawa / MMA Planet

Fine form

Since signing for Shooto in 2019 he has been unstoppable. Tezuka has won three fights out of three for the venerable Japanese promotion, defeating both Kota Onojima and Tomohiro Hagino in 2019.

In his most recent outing, he stopped Mamoru Uoi in the second round at Shooto 0126. He feels these recent results are the reward for the effort he puts in each day in the gym,

“It is the effort I give to the daily grind. More important than winning is what you do every day, which in turn will result in being a champion or winning. What you do every day is the most important. The belt and the win are a bonus,” he explained.

Another victory could earn him a title shot. Tezuka has plenty of momentum and is confident of making it four wins in a row when he faces Ando on Sunday,

“I think my skills are good enough to beat him. The winner will move forward in the division in a big way, and I am looking to make a statement,” he said.

Tezuka has had his ups and downs. But he says the bad times only serve to make success that little bit sweeter,

“Sometimes, you might want to quit. But once you endure all the suffering, success can make all the hardship worth it. That’s my satisfaction. I think all fighters can relate to that.”