Seika Izawa is doing a lot of things right. The 24 year old has won six fights out of six and is the Deep strawweight champion and the Rizin super atomweight champion.
She is probably the favourite to win the super atomweight Grand Prix which gets underway at Rizin 37 this Sunday. But Izawa is conscious that she is still not a real favourite with the Rizin fans.
During her decision win over Ayaka Hamasaki at Rizin 35 she noticed that the crowd at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza wanted her opponent to win,
“I know the moment I was put in danger with that armbar (from Hamasaki) was when the crowd became the loudest. If I continue to fight more and keep putting on fun fights I’m sure people will cheer for me.”
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Her record in submission grappling bouts is very impressive and Izawa almost always wins inside the distance. She finished Hamasaki with ground and pound in a non title bout at Rizin 33 but four of her wins have come by decision.
Her coach, Kazunori Yokota, believes Izawa has the potential to become the next Shinya Aoki because she is so dangerous with submissions. He wants to see her finish more fights and has introduced a harsh sparring regime with a focus on stamina.
Izawa says she is forced to spar non stop with bigger training partners and is only allowed a five second break between the five minute rounds,
“I only have time to change sparring partners, there’s literally no time to rest.”
But she is not complaining and says that training never ceases to be fun,
“I train because it’s fun, I learn something new every time I train which motivates me.”
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Rizin is really putting its super atomweights in the spotlight. Izawa has been bumped up to main event status with Naoki Inoue’s fight called off after he suffered a serious knee injury in training.
It is her first time headlining a Rizin card but she claims not to feel any additional pressure,
“I don’t feel any pressure because I’m the main event I’m just going to do what I always do.”
She watched the five round snore fest between Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas and was not impressed. Izawa thinks female fighters need to provide more entertainment if they want to get the fans behind them,
“The last title fight in the UFC, both fighters fought like they didn’t want to lose (but) it’s not just about winning. MMA is a sport where you need to be appealing (to the fans).”
She is only 24 but Izawa already has the future all mapped out. She plans to retire at the age of 30 and dedicate herself to training a new generation of mixed martial artists,
“I want to become the best in the world within the next five year and then retire to focus on bringing up the next generation. I want torun a gym and pass on my knowledge.”