Bellator 237: Goiti Yamauchi Excited to Return to “Most Important Place to Fight in the World”

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Goiti Yamauchi Ryan Couture Bellator MMA
Goiti Yamauchi vs Ryan Couture Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

It’s a big homecoming for Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 237 on Saturday, as the Japanese-Brazilian fights in Japan for the first time.

When Goiti Yamauchi enters the cage at Bellator 237 this weekend, the backdrop — of Saitama, Japan, nestled just outside Tokyo — will make the affair just a little more special.

Yamauchi (24-4) was born in Aichi, Japan, southwest of Tokyo on the island of Honshu. And while he left when he was just a young child, Japan itself has a certain allure for Yamauchi. “Just because I’m going to my home town, the Japanese fans, my family will be out there,” he told Cageside Press recently.

Ahead of his fight against former UFC alum and current RIZIN lightweight Daron Cruickshank, Yamauchi, fighting out of Curitiba. Brazil, explained the importance of returning home.

“Fighting means a lot to me,” said Yamauchi. “Japan is the most important place to fight in the world. Because most of martial arts, most of the biggest warriors in history are from Japan.”

With Japan’s rich martial arts history in mind, fighting there “means a lot. It means I’m doing something great, something big.”

Growing up in Curitiba, said Yamauchi, “I used to watch a lot of Pride, and especially K-1.” He had his heroes, like everyone else, including Japanese fighters. And despite leaving the country so early, “I have a lot of memories,” he said. “Even though some people don’t believe me because I was there young.” He remembers school, and his home, and even some of the schoolwork he did as a child. “Fresh memories in my mind,” he calls them.

As for the language, he did learn a bit. “Hai, hai,” he answered (that’s yes, yes in Japanese) before adding “just a little bit. I know how to write, how to read,” he explained, but admitted it’s “only the basics.” While he used to speak Japanese, he admits he forgot much as he didn’t practice as he grew older. He’ll get a chance to try out what he does remember soon, mind you.

Bellator 237, or simply Bellator Japan, takes place Saturday night. It’s a big card, topped by two of the biggest names, historically, the sport has known: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Rampage Jackson. “I’m expecting a big show. It’s the most important show of the year, it’s the last show of the year,” Yamauchi noted.

As for the man who will be standing across the cage from him Saturday, “my opponent, I’m expecting the best version of Daron Cruickshank ever. I’ll be ready for his best.”

Cruickshank has become known for devastating knockouts over the years, of course. “We’ll see what he has to bring. I’m very excited to see it.”

It’s easy to write off Yamauchi vs. Cruickshank as grappler vs. striker. However, should the fight stay standing, “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” Yamauchi told us. He’s prepared no matter what. “I hope to show what I’m capable of doing in my striking game. We’ll see.”

A win against Cruickshank would make it three in a row for Goiti Yamauchi. But the title picture at lightweight is murky at best. Champ Patricio Pitbull is embroiled in the featherweight grand prix. That’s likely to take up most of 2020.

“I’m focused on my next fight right now. But I got two important wins in my last two fights, against tough opponents,” he noted. One idea that appeals to Yamauchi is an interim title. “Yeah absolutely,” he said when the idea was suggested. “Bellator, they don’t like to make interim titles, but I think it’s a good option.” Since Patricio is out for a while, the division’s belt is out for a while as well, he pointed out. “It could take over a year. That’s kind of bad for the division. There’s a lot of people who want to fight for the belt.”

“They have to do something about it,” he finished.

Bellator 237 airs live this Saturday, December 28 on Paramount Network in North America.

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