Bellator 286: Sumiko Inaba Striving to Be Exactly What Ilima-Lei Was — The Champ

Long Beach, CA — Hawaii’s Sumiko Inaba returns to the cage at Bellator 286 this weekend for a fight with a familiar foe, in unfamiliar territory.

Inaba (4-0) is fighting in California for the first time Saturday, with “Lady Samurai” taking on Nadine Mandiau — who she holds a 2018 win over from the pair’s amateur days.

The trip to Long Beach is not anticlimactic for Inaba despite fighting in her native Hawaii last time out, she told Cageside Press on Thursday.

“I love to travel when I do these things. That’s a perk of fighting. So traveling, seeing new places, it’s amazing for me,” said Inaba. Of course fighting at home is amazing as well, and last time out she was able to bring her daughter out to the show. Still, it was all positives this week for Inaba.

“This week feels like fight week, and doing all this the media, it’s great. It’s all part of the process, and I’m enjoying it.”

There are inevitable comparisons between Sumiko Inaba and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, the promotion’s former women’s flyweight champion and fellow Hawaiian. Inaba is hoping she can find the same success in Bellator that the “Iliminator” has.

“For sure. I can only be grateful for Ilima for paving this way for me as a Hawaiian fighter. She’s done so much, I’ve watched both of her fights in Hawaii — they were chicken skin from the walkout to the fight and performance itself,” Inaba stated. “To be able to keep up with that is just inspiration, and I think that yeah, I strive to be exactly what she was, and that’s the champ.”

For those overlooking Inaba’s rematch with Nadine Mandiau, she gets it. “Looking at her record, I understand. But she’s been fighting for all these bigger promotions. She’s come back from losses, and I think that that takes a lot from a person, to be able to do that,” Inaba pointed out. “She’s going to come in more experienced; she’s been fighting a lot of very consistently, and I’m not taking that at all lightly.”

“It’s another fight, it’s four years in the making for getting new skills, and it’s gonna show on Saturday.” Both fighters have grown in the interim, Inaba added.

“We’ve both gained experience, skills, mind set. It’s going to be a completely different fight. But having the comfort-ability of being in the cage with her and sharing that experience already, it does help altogether.”

Sumiko Inaba faces Nadine Mandiau at Bellator 286 this Saturday, October 1, 2022 in Long Beach, CA.