Tatsuro Taira fights in the octagon for the first time at UFC Vegas 53 this weekend. The undefeated Japanese flyweight faces Carlos Candelario and it may be the first fight of the night but you cannot accuse the 22 year old of lacking ambition.

He told AsianMMA.com that he already has his sights set on the UFC flyweight title:

Relatively unknown

Taira was a star with Shooto before signing with ONE Championship. He made his debut as an amateur in 2016 and won nine fights out of nine before turning pro.

In 2018 he made his pro debut with Shooto. Taira would remain with the venerable Japanese promotion for the next three years eventually capturing the flyweight title in 2021.

Taira also caught up with UFC.com to discuss the upcoming bout. The undefeated Japanese fighter is aware he is relatively unknown to fight fans outside of Japan,

‘The most exciting thing about it is that nobody knows me. MMA is a really interesting sport, it is much more difficult (than it looks) and because of this I fell in love with the sport.”

Fast start

He is expecting a fast start from Candelario who makes his UFC debut after impressing on Dana White’s Contender Series,

“He’s a very aggressive fighter in round one so I want to push back. I want everybody to see, I will impress them. I want everybody to feel that ‘this Japanese guy is great.”

Taira is also representing Okinawa and wants to make people from the island proud,

“Okinawa is a small island and its far away from Tokyo. There aren’t many athletes but even so I made it this far and I want to show Okinawans that we can do it.”

He plans to finish Candelario in the third round,

“In the third round I am going to do a KO or submission.”

Japanese fighters

At present there are just four Japanese fighters on the UFC roster including Taira. The others are Takashi Sato, Mizuki Inoue and Kanako Murata.

The country’s influence on the international scene has waned in recent years with only a handful of fighters enjoying success outside of Japan. With Rizin putting on regular events there has also been less need for fighters to travel outside of the country in order to secure the biggest fights.

But Kai Asakura was recently pictured with Dana White and it is clear that the UFC still has an allure for Japanese fighters. Taira will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of legends like Kazushi Sakuraba by becoming a star with the American promotion.