On September 27, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Japan for “UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs. Barnett.”
(Main Image: Roy Nelson [right] takes a swing at opponent Mark Hunt at last year’s “Fight Night: Japan”)
Roy “Big Country” Nelson is no stranger to Japan, having featured in last year’s showdown against Mark Hunt at Saitama Super Arena. Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett, however, will be making his first appearance at the stadium this month, with every intention of making his presence felt.
But there is something unique about this Fight Night aside from the fact that it’ll be held in Japan. Leading up to the big event is a reality show involving Japanese fighters who are competing to have their dreams become reality.
Throughout the TV series, Nelson and Barnett have been coaching four Japanese fighters each, who compete against each other to find a set of finalists that will appear as part of a showpiece fight on September 27 before the main event. The winner will also be awarded a UFC contract and be listed on the roster.
There’s a lot at stake for both the Japanese competitors and the international high profile visitors. The fighters from Japan have had mixed experiences in different fighting organizations but nearly none in the UFC, so this chance to be plucked from relative obscurity and win a contract with the biggest MMA organization on the planet isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Equally, Barnett and Nelson have plenty to prove, with their reputations at stake and emotions riding high.
Despite this being his first encounter as a part of a UFC Japan event, saying Barnett is confident would be an understatement, “I feel like there isn’t anything an opponent is going to show me that I haven’t seen or can counter. I have won world titles in the past and continue to do so now. I am ready for any challenge.”
Barnett’s training comprises of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu under trainers Erik Paulson and Rigan Machado. He is known to subdue his opponents with a variety of chokes and holds, but isn’t afraid to get into a striking brawl if need be. Now ranked number 6 in the heavyweight division—even though his last fight was a loss in December 2013—he still sits a little higher than Nelson, who is currently ranked 11th. Barnett weighs in at 113 kg and stands 190 cm, and fights out of California, USA. On the other side of the Octagon, Nelson tips the scales at 119 kg, stands 182 cm and fights out of the state of Nevada.
Nelson is not known for having a particularly strong ground game, so Barnett will be focusing on counteracting other assets of his repertoire—“His ground game won’t be any match for me. It’s his right overhand I have to watch for. I have been watching a lot of videos to develop an even greater strategy against that attack… I will be ready!”
For Barnett, September 27’s event is about much more than who wins the fights. He is also dedicated to raising the profile of the sport and invested in the careers of the younger Japanese fighters that he’s been involved with throughout the process.
“Standing up as an example of what I believe a pro fighter should be is very important to me. I hope all the pro fighters in Japan come out to the fight to stand tall alongside me and raise up the image of MMA fighters around the world.”
Nelson echoes a similar sentiment about ensuring the wide reach and longevity of MMA action in Japan. “Come September 27, two heavyweights will collide and we will rebuild the lost art of MMA in Japan. My plan is to bring back MMA into Japan as it once was.”
In addition to the main showdown between Nelson and Barnett, the night will also play host to a similarly high profile middleweight bout that’s expected to bring with it plenty of excitement. The UFC’s seventh-ranked middleweight, Gegard Mousasi (fighting out of The Netherlands), who is known as an impressive technical fighter due to his background as a kickboxer, was originally slated to go up against the Brazilian-born, Atlanta-based Roan Carneiro. Due to unforeseen injuries, Carneiro will now be replaced by the Jamaican-born, New York-based Uriah Hall.
Despite making a relatively speedy turnaround after defeating Oluwale Bamgbose at an August 8 UFC Fight Night in Nashville, Hall has an impressive recent record: he’s won four of his last five clashes and will no doubt prove to be a worthy contender for Mousasi, who has also won two consecutive fights to kick off his 2015 campaign.
With heavyweight brawlers Roy Nelson and Josh Barnett topping the bill, along with a co-headline middleweight bout between Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall and the live finale of the “Road to UFC: Japan” TV series, Saitama Super Arena will be shaking with energy and excitement on September 27.
A Knockout in the Octagon: Lauren Mikolas
Having made an appearance at a recent Tokyo press event in the lead up to UFC Fight Night Japan, Lauren Mikolas (wife of U.S. baseballer, Miles Mikolas, now playing in Japan as pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants) has been announced as the UFC’s newest Octagon Girl, set to make her debut at Saitama Super Arena on September 27.
The glamorous 27-year-old has called Japan home since her husband signed with the Giants last year. Since then, much of the Japanese public have become quite enamored with her natural beauty and her enthusiastic support of baseball in Japan. Her public profile has has also been bolstered thanks to her increasingly popular social media accounts, fashionable appearances at public events, and health and beauty blog, Fearless Charm.
Could this launch her into a career in the Japanese entertainment industry?
The event is to be held at the Saitama Super Arena on Sunday, September 27. Tickets can now be purchased at ufc.tokyoweekender.com
Want to experience the showdown in style?
Make it a day to remember by grabbing VIP tickets for you and your friends! Get access to all the VIP benefits including ringside seats, an exclusive sushi bar, unlimited beer and soft drinks, an autographed copy of the English program, parking and more.
Tune in to “Road to UFC: Japan”
Channel: TV Tokyo (Kanto Local) | Every Monday 25:00–25:30
First Episode: Monday, July 6
Channel: BS Japan | Every Saturday 24:00–24:30