It might surprise you to hear that as Ryo Okada heads into the Rizin bantamweight tournament he is contemplating retirement. It is the biggest opportunity of the Shooto bantamweight champion’s career but it could also be the last.
“Next year will mark my tenth anniversary as a professional. I’m thinking about ending my journey as a professional fighter,” he said on a recent episode of Rizin confessions.
Not many fighters would talk about calling it quits with such a big fight coming up. Okada is facing Yuki Motoya at Rizin 28 next week in the first round of the bantamweight Grand Prix.
But Okada is not like many fighters. He was a promising footballer who switched focus to MMA after joining the nearby Paraestra Gym while studying sports science at Chiba National University.
He would ultimately leave his academic career behind to focus on MMA but admits to taking a more intellectual approach to fights. During the latest episode of Rizin confessions he presents a detailed flow chart on a white board that looks like something out of a science lecture.
Okada says he has these complex looking formulas in his head whenever he fights,
“I have these formulas in my head (such as) these are the options after throwing a left hook. For me writing them down was necessary.”
At Rizin 28 he goes up against Motoya, an opponent who has been on his radar for a long time. Okada is convinced he has found a formula that will help him win this fight,
“I have been studying him over the years. I have the equations to beat Motoya.”
Motoya is the former Deep bantamweight champion while Okada holds the Shooto 135lbs strap. Promotional pride will be on the line according to the latter,
“I entered this tournament to prove that Shooto is the best. I believe Shooto has the best fighters,” Okada said.
Okada was raised by a single mother and knows exactly what he would do with the prize money if he was to win the Rizin bantamweight tournament,
“I’ll pay off my student loan, and buy me mum a car with whatever is left. ”
Okada recently turned 32 and he is only became the undisputed Shooto bantamweight champion earlier this year, having previously held the interim version of the strap.
But he believes his career is coming to an end and describes this tournament as the last item on his check list of accomplishments,
“I feel like I have already realized my dream now its time to give back to my coach and the people who supported me realizing my dream throughout the years. That would be my last thing to do to complete my check list.”
With a university degree to fall back on Okada has career options outside of the MMA world. But the Shooto bantamweight champion wants to win the biggest prize of his career before walking off into the sunset.