UFC welterweight Takashi Sato has been on a roller coaster ride so far in 2020.
While the whole world has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus, Sato has also had to deal with the passing of his father. Which is tragic, but what came next is even more heartbreaking.
Ahead of a fight in New Zealand in February, Sato’s father severely ill father insisted that his son not come home, but rather focus on his fight against Maki Pitolo. Then, at the 11th hour, the fight was scrapped — during the event’s weigh-in, due to Pitolo falling ill.
Sato had skipped his father’s funeral for the chance to win that night. A win that he had planned to honor his late father with.
A source close to Takashi Sato has informed me that his dying father told him NOT to come back to Japan & stay in Florida for training camp so he skipped his father’s funeral when he passed away. He wanted to dedicate this fight to his father in heaven but won't have a chance now https://t.co/V2RzHVjEtO
— John Hyon Ko (@JHKMMA) February 21, 2020
Fast forward to June. The pandemic rages on, but the UFC has managed to successfully run a half-dozen plus shows. Sato, originally scheduled for a Texas card against Ramiz Brahimaj, wound up fighting on Saturday’s card in Las Vegas. To add one more wrinkle, his opponent changed just days out, with Jason Witt stepping in for Brahimaj, who was pulled from the event after a corner tested positive for COVID-19.
Sato (16-3) got the job done, earning a TKO victory within a minute. And finally, he had the chance to honor his father.
“I did speak with my father three days before he passed away. And he told me to not to come back to Japan,” Sato told media outlets including Cageside Press following the win. “Your job is to fight, so just stay in the fight camp and concentrate,” he recalled his father saying.
“However, I couldn’t fight in New Zealand. So I kept that promise. My father just told me to keep going forward, and that’s what I did.” The results were in his win Saturday.
With so much turmoil heading into the bout, Sato had ceased to worry about who he was fighting. “I don’t care who the opponent was, because it changed so much. I only concentrated on what I was supposed to do,” he said.
As for Witt stepping up on just two day’s notice, it’s a decision Sato would have made himself. “I actually think the job of a professional fighter is to be ready at any time. I’m a professional fighter, so if I were in his shoes, I would have taken that offer too.”
Watch the full UFC on ESPN 12 post-fight media scrum with Takashi Sato above.