Japan seems like an obvious destination for the UFC but events there have been few and far between. Tatsuro Taira wants to change that and thinks he could be the fighter to do it.

The Japanese flyweight might only be 23 but he already has three wins inside the octagon. Taira will be looking to secure the fourth at UFC 290 this weekend.

It will be his fourth time fighting in the US but he hopes to compete on a UFC card in his homeland one day,

“I really love my fans and appreciate all the support, at home in Japan and internationally. Honestly, I want to get noticed and I want more attention, because I want to bring the UFC to Japan,” he told UFC.com.

New opponent

It is a sign of Taira’s ambition that he is already looking to have fight cards built around him. UFC 290 is set for the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and it will be the Japanese flyweight’s first time fighting in front of a live audience in the US.

His previous fights have all taken place at the Apex Centre but Taira is moving up in the world, even if this bout only came together at the very last minute. He was initially scheduled to fight Kleydson Rodrigues at UFC on ABC 5 last month but the Brazilian missed weight.

So Taira got a new opponent and a new date. He face promotional newcomer Edgar Cháirez this weekend and, while the Mexican is virtually unknown, he hopes a win will be enough to get him into the top 15 at 125lbs,

“Entering the rankings is important because I want to fight against the best of the best. I think a victory will get me into the Top 15, and I want to work my way up as soon as possible.”

Loyal fanbase

Tokyo was the first non US city to ever host a UFC event in 1997. But it is six years since the promotion decided to hold a fight card there with Singapore seemingly becoming the promotion’s Asian destination of choice.

There are a number of factors behind this but the absence of Japanese fighters from the upper echelons of the UFC rankings could well be one of them. Weili Zhang’s rise up the strawweight ranks clearly made China a much more attractive destination and Taira would like to do something similar for his homeland.

He already has a loyal fanbase in Japan,

“There’s been an increase in support, which I’m really grateful for. Japan has amazing MMA fans, I feel like the country has gotten behind me, and it motivates me.”

Strong spirit

Taira might have a 13-0 record but with only three UFC wins to his name the 23 year old could be accused of getting ahead of himself. But he has always been ambitious and thinks that this mentality is what sets him apart.

When asked what his greatest strength is he doesn’t list any of the physical or technical attributes that have helped him maintain a 100% winning record,

“I’d have to say my mindset. I’ve always envisioned where and what I want to be. I have a strong spirit to bring the championship belt to Japan whenever I enter the cage, and that’s what’s fueled my success so far. I work very hard, and I enjoy the process.”

Taira will first need to prove he can beat ranked opponents at flyweight. That is not something he has the opportunity to do this weekend but the 23 year old is clearly heading in the right direction and hopes to one day headline a UFC card in his homeland.