Tatsuro Taira will be fighting in front of a live audience for the first time in his UFC career this weekend. He is set to face Kleydson Rodrigues in Jacksonville.
UFC on ABC 5 is set for the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. It is the same venue that Weili Zhang was mercilessly booed in before, during and after her first fight with Rose Namajunas.
Taira has spent his entire UFC career to date competing at the Apex Centre in Las Vegas in front of a handful of fans. But he has no concerns about encountering hostility from the Florida crowd and says he wans ‘to feel’ the atmosphere,
“This is my first time in Florida, I am from Okinawa which is like an island so it shares the same atmosphere. It’s my first time doing a fight in front of a crowd in the US, I want to feel the atmosphere,” he told UFC.com.
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The Apex Centre has not exactly been unkind to Taira. He has won three fights out of three there and picked up $50,000 USD performance bonuses for his two most recent victories.
His submission win over Jesus Aguilar at UFC Vegas 68 was enough to earn him a bonus cheque but not a spot in the top 15. He believes one more win will be enough to earn him a shot at a ranked opponent,
“This next fight, this next win will be a very important win and I am looking forwards to facing ranked opponents.”
Rodriguez is coming off a first round stoppage win over Shannon Ross at UFC 284. Taira expects the Brazilian to be aggressive but promises to take the fight to him,
“The opponent is the aggressive type but I have to control the pace and I am going to set a high pace myself.”
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Taira holds a 13-0 professional record and was the Shooto flyweight champion before signing with the UFC. He is only 23 and still has plenty of time to improve but comes across as remarkably modest.
Many fighters in Taira’s position would be going out of their way to draw attention to their success. Winning your first 13 fights is no mean accomplishment in the sport of MMA, particularly when you have managed to capture a title and your first three UFC victories in the process.
Taira went the distance on his UFC debut but won his next two fights by submission. He will acknowledge that he is ‘getting better’ but thinks that improvement is essential for any fighter who wants to compete in the octagon,
“I think I’m getting used to fighting outside of Japan and my performance are getting better. I have to get better in order to keep competing.”
Taira is a massive favourite heading into the fight which will be the first on the card. Being on the prelims might mean that the venue is not full, but if the Japanese star continues to win in such impressive style it can only be a matter of time until he is headlining UFC cards.