Ryoji Kudo is in a very unusual position for a fighter in 2020. The Japanese featherweight has already fought two times this calendar year, a remarkable feat given how few events have taken place since the coronavirus, or Covid-19, crisis began.

Kudo earned a decision win over Min Hyuk Lee at ONE Warrior Series 10 in February. He followed that up with a first round stoppage of Asuka Tsubak at Road to ONE 2 last month.

The 27 year old accepts he might have to wait a little longer for his next fight,

“This virus is a big problem, it is inevitable that promotions will postpone or cancel fights,” he said.

Ryoji Kudo punches Min Hyuk Lee

Safety first

Kudo thinks that a ‘safety first’ approach towards slowing the spread of the virus is sensible and is concerned that people are not taking the social distancing rules seriously enough,

“It’s not just my problem, but it’s our problem. It doesn’t seem to bother some people but I hope they take it seriously.”

Pancrase 315 was cancelled last week. The MMA scene in Japan has ground to a halt with all of the local promotions postponing their events, leaving local fighters with no opportunity to compete.

Road to ONE 2 was an exception to this rule. The event took place in Tokyo last month with no live audience and Kudo was grateful to have been involved in one of the two MMA fights on this card,

“I was so thankful to have a spot at that event. It kept me hopeful in this difficult situation.”

Ryoji Kudo kicks Min Hyuk Lee

Main focus

Kudo remains on the Shooto roster. But he has his sights firmly set on ONE Championship and wants to secure a contract with Asia’s biggest MMA promotion.

Through Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series fighters like Lito Adiwang, Kimihiro Eto, Dae Sung Park, Mark Abelardo and Stamp Fairtex have all earned a spot on the main roster.

For Kudo that is the goal,

“I prepare for ONE Warrior Series. To me, it’s important more than anything else. The goal is to get that contract with ONE Championship. That’s my focus right now.”

Ryoji Kudo and Min Hyuk Lee 2

Winning streak

Kudo holds a record of 8-1-1 and is riding a five fight winning streak that includes a decision victory over Jerry Olsim at ONE Warrior Series 8. Having fought twice in the space of two months he could be entitled to a rest but says his training schedule is relentless,

“While we take infection prevention seriously, we have to be ready always. I continue to train. I don’t want to waste any opportunity. I have a lot of time, so I better use it to train and improve,” he said.

Kudo made his amateur debut less than three years ago. He might have started MMA relatively late in life but, training under Ryo Chonan at Tribe Tokyo, he’s more than made up for lost time.

Ryoji Kudo

Naturally motivated

Another win would surely be enough to earn him a ONE Championship contract. But Kudo’s ambitions do not end there,

“I am naturally motivated. I face adversity head on. Right now, I have to stay patient and concentrated because someday I will become one of Japan’s leading fighters.”

At 27 years old Kudo has possibly passed the age at which the term ‘prospect’ can be applied. But his prospects look very good and the featherweight will be one to watch once normal service resumes.