Tabatha Ricci is a rising star in the women’s strawweight division. She faces Lupita Godinez at UFC 295 tomorrow morning and discussed the influence Japan has had on her career in the buildup.

She has a background in Judo and told Sports Keeda that she dreams of fighting for the UFC in Japan one day,

“It (Japan) was huge for my career, you know. I come from judo, so living in Japan for a year and getting my black belt there, having the fights that I had there.”

She comes from a family of judokas and thinks her father would love to see her fighting in Japan,

“It was not only my dream; living the experience was my dad’s dream too because he’s a judoka. So I would love to come back to Japan and fight for UFC. I have a lot of fans there. I want to bring my team, I want to bring my family with me. You know, it’s something that I look forward to in the future.”

Similar style

She has  an opportunity to extend her two fight winning streak this weekend. Her opponent sits three spots below her in the rankings and Ricci sees similarities between their styles,

“We have a similar style coming from grappling. She’s showing very strong boxing (but) I don’t feel like she’s going to find me on the feet. I feel like I’ll be faster and stronger.”

Ricci moved to the UFC after starring with LFA. Before that she spent time competing for Seiza in Japan under modified MMA rules and winning six fights out of seven.

The 28 year old has one hero from Japanese MMA and it is Kazushi Sakuraba,

“I really like Sakakuraba. I’ve been in his seminar there and I like his style. I like him a lot.”

Strong affiliation

While Ricci has a strong affiliation with Japan it is a Chinese opponent she ultimately wants to face. The Brazilian is currently #10 in the strawweight rankings and wants to earn herself a title shot.

“I need to fight Weili so I can get my belt one day. I don’t know when but it’s coming.”

Ricci will need to get past Godinez first. They face off at Madison Square Garden tomorrow and if the Brazilian wins it sounds like she will be calling out the current champion,

“I want to fight with the best (and) I think she’s the best in the division so far.  I think my time will come, I’m not rushing at all.”

The process of securing a title shot could be expedited with a win this weekend. Ricci might not be on the champion’s radar just yet but a third straight win would move her one step closer to contention.