Tatsuya Kawijiri almost retired before he fought in the UFC

If you’ve followed MMA outside of the United States, you know Tatsuya Kawijiri. He was a standout in Pride, was a mainstay in Dream and challenged Gilbert Melendez unsuccessfully for the Strikeforce lightweight belt. He’s long been considered a great fighter who simply never got a shot in the “big leagues” but he’s here now, in the UFC, and he wants greater challenges.

Especially since he finds this as a sort of rebirth, after nearly giving up the sport in the last year.

This is what he told MMAJunkie:

“This was my first fight in almost a year, and in the past year I even thought about quitting MMA a couple of times,” he said through a translator. “That’s why I was very nervous and when I won, I had a lot of tension. I’m looking at this fight as just the beginning. I’m looking to go into America and fight on bigger pay-per-view shows.”

“I had a few injuries, and my fights didn’t get confirmed for a long time,” he said. “I almost lost my motivation. But now I’m in the UFC, so I trained for this fight harder than I ever did before. I’m going to keep doing that and I want to show the fans that this is not the Kawajiri you know yet. You’re going to see a better Kawajiri later.”

“I love the sport of mixed martial arts and I’m proud to be Japanese. Now I’m in the major leagues – the world’s best stage, the UFC. So I’m only looking to become champion here,” he said. “If it’s possible, I’d love to fight the champion, Jose Aldo, immediately. But I’m sure there are orders I have to follow. So I want to fight some top 10 fighters.”