“I guess I decided I wanted to do MMA… because, I was always afraid to. Whenever there’s something I’m afraid of doing, it holds the most reward for me.”
Those words from Invicta FC bantamweight challenger Miriam Nakamoto took me by surprise.
They’re part of this thoughtful video interview with Nakamoto which surfaced this week on the Invicta FC YouTube Channel, as she prepares for her bout Saturday night against Lauren Murphy for the inaugural Invicta FC Bantamweight Championship at Invicta 7 in Kansas City, Missouri.
When I wrote What Does Your Perfect MMA World Look Like? I asked, among other things, how the MMA world would look if there was a less caustic personality as the face of women’s MMA.
I’m not sure if Nakamoto — one of the sport’s most decorated Muay Thai fighters — is it. But for me, and maybe for you, the interview will offer a change of pace from all the rigamarole following Ronda Rousey’s display on The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale this past Saturday.
Nakamoto, who hails from the East Bay Area of California, describes her approach:
“Whoever I fight in MMA, I think they’re a violent, crazy person, and I just have to get them away from me. Put an end to it. I don’t need to be angry to fight. I don’t need to be crazy to fight. It’s a door to more personal freedom.”
Love it. She says she’s “never confident” before a fight, and takes nothing for granted.
Fight fans got our first glimpse of Miriam Nakamoto with Fight Girls, a reality TV show which followed ten female Muay Thai fighters. Nakamoto sounded particularly troubled then, and struggled to get along with many of her cast mates.
Felice Herrig, who has also since switched to MMA and will also fight at Invicta FC 7 this Saturday, taunted Nakamoto as she struggled with a weight cut while in Thailand, leading to a near meltdown. But Nakamoto won both her bouts on the show, often looking like the class of the cast.
That was back in 2007. Nakamoto toiled in obscurity before and after the show, eventually moving on to MMA, and winning two fights for Invicta. Nakamoto told MMARising earlier in the year how happy she was to receive a “knockout of the night” bonus in her last Invicta bout, and buy new clothes:
“In our gym, on the combat side, there’s a blown-up picture of me after a fight with a belt and a picture of Kevin Ross. And then there’s a poster of the whole fight team with our belts underneath. I’m in this place of honour, prestige and elevation for my achievements and for my stature, and then I have holes in my clothes. So finally, I went and bought new clothes and it feels really good. I have money left over and I’ll be okay until my next fight. I can pay my bills until the next fight and that’s a great feeling.”
The current rise of women’s MMA has been good for Nakamoto, who at 37 says she’s interested in fighting two more years.
She’s got a title fight this weekend. Right now, a few thousand people like her Facebook fan page. Sure, she’s no Sharkesia on the pop culture landscape (ah, where did we go wrong?) but she’s making some noise. Her Muay Thai, as can be seen in the video clip’s highlights, is a thing of beauty.
“It’s not about putting on a show to show people how tough I am. I know I’m tough.”
This Saturday, we’ll get another glimpse of the continuing development of Nakamoto: the fighter and the person. We’ll see if that path leads to MMA gold.