Great expectations followed Hatsu Hioki (Pictured) when the featherweight signed with the UFC. Little did fight fans know, the Japanese star is attempting to revitalize an entire nation’s future in mixed martial arts.
With that amount of pressure resting on his 145 pound shoulders, perhaps that explains why the former Shooto standout was less than spectacular in his big league debut at UFC 137.
“Japanese MMA is not dead, it’s time to change,” Hioki claimed after his win over George Roop.
He was a significant 3.5-to-1 favorite to dispose of Roop, but Hioki just barely managed to escape with a split decision victory. Although he wasn’t able to offer up a highlight-reel finish, the submission specialist hopes he inspired his countrymen after bumping his record to 25-4-2.
“I think I will be really happy if all the Japanese people watching my fight were encouraged by my fight,” Hioki expressed at the post-event press conference. “Basically, the rules were different, but I believe there’s going to be a possibility that many Japanese fighters will be victorious in this event.”
While the 28-year-old is concerned with breathing new life into Japanese fighting, UFC president Dana White said he could care less which country his athletes come from. White’s simply looking for superstars.
“I don’t look at people whether they’re Japanese or Brazilian or whatever it is,” White matter-of-factly stated. “We’re looking for the best fighters in the world. This sport is very international.
“Whether you’re Japanese, Brazilian, Croatian or whatever, this is a tough place to fight. All the best fighters in the world fight here from all over the world. I wouldn’t point out one certain spot on the map and say, ‘Oh, these guys aren’t doing well.’”