Seven-time Muay Thai world champion Miriam Nakamoto opposes Duda Yankovich, herself a world champion in Boxing, July 13th at Invicta FC 6.
Believing that you should always face the challenge you are most scared of, Nakamoto has met the challenge of transitioning from Muay Thai head on. With world class striking, Nakamoto looks to continue her Muay Thai success in the 135lb division, and Yankovich is next on the list.
Corey Smith: You started off your career in martial arts with a win in the 2004 San Francisco Golden Gloves tournament. What was your confidence level going into the tournament? How long had you been training at that point?
Miriam Nakamoto: I had been trying for about four or five years and that point. I was shy. It took a long time for me to spar, it came from being self-conscious. I was uncomfortable shadow boxing in class. It took me a very long time to actually fight. I won the tournament, but I was ‘sick with nerves’ for a couple days of the event. It ignited my passion, I’ve never been unconfident, and there are times that I feel more comfortable.
CS: You quickly transitioned into Muay Thai, where you won several world championships. How do the MMA and Muay Thai worlds differ?
MN: I started in Muay Thai. I did Muay Thai for five years before somebody I knew passed away and I was very sad so I didn’t want to do Muay Thai. That’s when I went into boxing. My base has always been Muay Thai.
MN: MMA is like fighting in water. Or anti-gravity fighting. It’s all over the place. With a jiu-jitsu match, or a wrestling match, or Muay Thai match if you take out the ground it’s all pretty much the same thing. You end up in different positions, but in a sense a Muay Thai clinch is grappling. But on the ground, same position, it’s a can opener. MMA is fighting in an anti-gravity chamber.
CS: During one of the most successful parts of your Muay Thai career, you participated in the Oxygen reality series Fight Girls. What was that experience like? Did it interfere in your training in any way?
MN: Fight Girls was not the highlight of my Muay Thai career. It was awful. They wanted reality, but for me I go train, I eat, I go to sleep. I get up eat, go train, eat again, and go to sleep. There is nothing that interesting going on, other than maybe some self-doubt while training. They would try to create these things, and pit us against each other.
MN: You have to feed your body regularly, train at a certain time, rest. It’s not really reality show material. But they created the drama.
CS: After so much success in Muay Thai, what made you decide to transition into mixed martial arts?
MN: One reason was that I was scared of MMA. If you are scared of something, you have to do it. I would hate to be old and grey and look back and remember that I chose not to do because scared of it, or I was intimidated by it. I usually find that give me the most anxiety are the ones that give me the most reward.
MN: With fighting, when I first started fighting, I don’t know if it was being hurt by the other person, my body is always aware that it is in danger, but for me it was being seen that was the scary part. Putting myself out there in front of everyone and letting my light shine instead of hiding. That was the scariest thing for me.
MN: Another reason I got in MMA, it was weird for me, because on one hand I had these historic accomplishments in Muay Thai, and on the other hand I was so broke and unrecognized. I would look at MMA fighters with a couple fights as an amateur, maybe two fights as a pro, and everybody is making this huge funk about them. And they are nothing special and they walk around acting like they are special, and they are getting paid more money than a world champion Muay Thai fighter. It’s baffling and frustrating, so that’s one more reason for my switch.
CS: Are you completely finished with Muay Thai? Or would you return for the right fight?
MN: I would definitely like to defend one of my belts.
CS: Many consider you to be at the top of list of female strikers around the world. How much training do you devote to that aspect compared to wrestling or takedown defense?
MN: It’s all equal, just different aspects of it. My standup for a Muay Thai fight isn’t going to be the same as for an MMA fight, you have to make the adjustments. The opponent comes into play too, what their background is, how do they fight, what’s their style, what’s their temperament in a fight. You have to take all of those things into consideration when you come up with a game plan and your training camp. All the components are there.
CS: This will be your second appearance for Invicta FC. How has your experience been so far with the company?
MN: I am dumbfounded. They give you stuff! I’m not used to that! One time I received a world title belt in Muay Thai, and after posing in the ring and walking out with it, they took it back. My last Thai fight I actually got a win bonus, but that’s it. If you’re lucky you get to keep your gloves.
MN: So I am completely blown away. They are giving me stuff, this is weird. I’m signing posters, really? I’m signing posters and I’m on the undercard. I remember fighting in China, and they don’t really French braid over there. So I am hiking around looking for a salon, no one speaks English, and I have to explain to them what I need for my hair. The day of the fight. Here it’s all taken care of.
CS: What did teammates and Invicta veterans Alexis Davis and Sarah D’Alelio have to say in regards to fighting for Invicta?
MN: Of course we had conversations about Invicta, and their experience there. And they showed me the gift baskets and what not, and I was like huh? They gave you what? They paid you what? It was a no brainer after hearing about those stories.
MN: I’ve had 24 fights, and never had this experience with any promoter that I fought for. It makes me feel like, and as a female fighter you don’t usually feel this way, but for once it makes you feel like having a vagina is good.
CS: On July 13th at Invicta FC 6, you will be facing off against Duda Yankovich, a well accomplished boxer making the transition to MMA. How do you see that match going? How familiar are you with Yankovich?
MN: I’ve said this in my last interview; I don’t see how it’s going. If I try to predict what happens, I can get stuck on one thing. I really just need to focus on whatever is in front of me, so I can react appropriately.
MN: I have looked at her tape; she’s very scrappy. She’s tough, and she doesn’t quit. So it’s a good matchup.
CS: On fight night, what is your mood like? Do you prefer to be left alone and focus? Or do you try to distract yourself?
MN: I’m all over the place. One moment I might be joking and laughing, the next moment I’ll be laying there sleeping, the next moment I’ll be crying, the next moment I want to hit pads so I’ll go crack them, then drink water, then lay down, and then I might want a banana. I’m all over the place.
MN: My coach just knows it’s part of the process, he just has to ride the wave. The night of the fight, I do like to watch the fights in the background because it I don’t feel as far away from the moment. I can watch the athletes in front of me go, and it helps me realize “Oh yeah they are just hitting each other. This is just glorified sparring, no chin guards.”
MN: I like to watch before rather than after, it helps me more before. Unless it’s a fight that I really want to see. It brings it back down to Earth, instead of hyping it in my mind.
CS: So during the fight, how do you prefer to be coached? Who generally accompanies you to the cage?
MN: I don’t remember. I know what I don’t like. I don’t like someone giving me a hard time, and I don’t need someone to lie to me. I do not like someone telling me how bad I am doing, telling me what’s wrong with me. I’ve had that before, and I don’t need it. Just someone talking to me, I can use that.
MN: I only remember really bad situations. I had a fractured eye socket, and I remember telling my coaches I couldn’t continue because I was injured so badly. I had to go to the emergency room after.
MN: I don’t usually get yelled at, because my coach and I usually see eye to eye. I come to our training sessions and I have an idea what an opponent needs, and he will be right there with me. We usually don’t argue about the game plan, because we see similar things.
CS: What types of activities do you enjoy solely for fun and relaxation?
MN: I’m kinda boring, I don’t really do anything. I do make stuff though. I like to make food. I make Paleo, raw, gluten free stuff. I like to design new flavors. I sell them; I made a lavender maple coconut cheesecake, with a spiced orange crust. I worked at a raw food restaurant and just branched out from there. It’s just me in the kitchen with my short attention span.
MN: I designed a granola for Sarah (D’Alelio), for her birthday last year. She asked me for an apples and cinnamon granola because it would remind her of when she was a kid. That sounds boring though, I didn’t wanna make that. So I threw a twist on it, I put apples and cinnamon with cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, and lemon. So it’s apples and cinnamon but kind of spicy. It’s apple jacks for grown-ups. I call it ‘Monster Morning.’
CS: You eat only a raw food diet. How does that type of diet benefit someone with such a high level of fitness such as yourself?
MN: I’m not actually on an entirely raw food diet. I make a lot of raw food and play around with it, but I’m not entirely raw. I’ve done like 80% raw, everything raw except my meat. You do have to eat more often, it’s kinda a hassle but it’s all about prep work.
CS: All things being equal, if both are on TV at the same time, are you watching MMA or Muay Thai?
MN: Depends on the fight. Completely depends on the fight, I do not like watching shit fights. I don’t like when people say something is good when it’s not good. It’s more frustrating when it’s females fighting, because then it’s about how we are representing ourselves. When it’s rudimentary at best, and you say that its good, you bring down women’s MMA.
MN: When women fight they are doing it for a reason, whereas when men fight it’s just part of their makeup. Women are more born as the nurturer, but men are born as the fighter, the aggressor, the dominator.
CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?
MN: Thank you to my whole team. My fight camp process can be a hell of a ride, and I appreciate their patience and endurance while working with me.
MN: A special thanks to my Sambo coach Val, for his conversations that helped me get back on track.
MN: And thank you my Jiu Jitsu coach Matias for reigniting my passion for Jiu Jitsu.
MN: My sponsors Kinetic Chain Sport, Elite Sports Physical Therapy, Sweet Sweat, Revgear, The Rehab Group, and the AMR group.