Current JEWELS Lightweight champion, Ayaka Hamasaki, reports to the Invicta FC cage for a second time on July 13th, facing off against Brazilian grappler Claudia Gadelha at Invicta FC 6.
Originally booked to face Straweight champion Carla Esparza before an injury sidelined the champion, Hamasaki is intent on making an impression regardless of the opponent. Gadelha and Hamasaki sport perfect 9-0 records, and one will be leaving with the first loss of their careers on July 13th.
Corey Smith: With a childhood background in Judo, you initially entered into the world of MMA as a means to get into better shape. How familiar were you with MMA at that point, and how did your training begin?
Ayaka Hamasaki: I knew about men’s MMA from watching them on TV but until Rina Tomita told me, I didn’t even know women’s MMA actually existed.
AH: When I joined AACC I had no intention of doing MMA but after taking grappling classes for a year or also, I just tried a MMA class.
AH: And, I did many moves that I’ve never done before and it was really fun so I started doing MMA training.
CS: Many American fighters travel to Japan to train, have you ever trained in the United States? If not, would you consider it?
AH: I thought about training in US but realistically it’s difficult to do so because I have a job, and also, financially it’s not easy to just go to US for training.
CS: What are the main differences between Japanese and American MMA?
AH: I don’t think there is a big difference between the two but in terms of women’s MMA, in Japan, some matches still won’t allow fighters to strike to the head on the ground so compared to overseas, I think we are little bit behind.
CS: It is common knowledge that Japanese fight fans are not as loud and boisterous as their American counterparts. Is that something that you have to adjust to while fighting in America?
AH: First I was very surprised on how loud they are but I can actually pump myself up listening to those fans noise so it was really easy for me to fight in the US.
CS: Aside from specifics for your opponent, what is your focus going into this training camp?
AH: This was going to be my first five 5-minute round bout so I was emphasizing a bit more on the stamina department.
CS: You previously fought at Invicta FC 2, how has your relationship been like with Invicta FC?
AH: Invicta FC did offer me a fight few times (since the Lacey Schuckman fight) but unfortunately because of my previous engagements with the promotion in Japan I couldn’t take it.
AH: But I really enjoy, and proud to be able to fight for Invicta FC, so I would like to fight for them as much as I can.
CS: You were originally slated to face Invicta FC Straweight champion, Carla Esparza. What are your thoughts on the opponent change?”
AH: It’s a bummer that I can’t fight Carla for the title but I am going to fight hard so Invicta FC would match me against Carla in the future.
CS: You are now scheduled to face Brazilian submission authority, Claudia Gadelha. How is the preparation different for Gadelha versus Esparza? How familiar are you with Gadelha?”
AH: Both Carla and Claudia are good grapplers so my basic training schedule hasn’t changed much. But Claudia is a very good BJJ fighter too so I am working on countermeasures in that department for sure.
CS: When you are in the cage, what type of instruction do you like to hear from your corner? Who generally accompanies you into the cage?
AH: I can hear my corner men’s voices pretty well during the fight so I listen to everyone’s advice.
CS: Outside of the gym, what keeps you entertained? How do you unwind after a long day of training camp?
AH: I like to rent DVD’s and watch movies at home. If it’s a good weather, I like to go out with my bike. When I am super tired from training, I play with my two cats.
CS: Other than the weight cut before a fight, what is the hardest aspect of being a professional fighter?
AH: The most difficult thing is to maintain hard training and keep myself injury free.
CS: What is the best advice you have ever received from a fan?
AH: When I hear the fans yelling my name, it just inspires me a lot.
CS: When you look back on your career many years from now, when the lights have dimmed, and the roar of the crowd faded, what do you hope you have accomplished?
AH: Honestly I haven’t really thought about that but I would like to be part of the growth of MMA. Women’s MMA in particular.
CS: Lastly, MMA is as much a team sport as it is an individual one. Who would you like to thank?
AH: I would like to thank Invicta FC for giving me this opportunity and everyone that worked hard to make this fight happen, and everyone that is currently working hard with me everyday.