The UFC has made several visits to Japan, but this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night at Saitama Super Arena feels like something special.
It’s headlined by what promises to be a memorable slug-fest between two of the world’s hardest-hitting heavyweights in Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson. It’s an always-welcome return to Japan for Hunt, who won the K-1 Grand Prix more than ten years ago and has continued to cultivate a Japanese fan base.
It’s also the first UFC event in the Land of the Rising Sun to be co-headlined by a women’s bout. Recent UFC bantamweight title challenger Miesha Tate will fight the undefeated, but mostly unknown, Rin Nakai, in the co-main event.
Tate spoke to MMA Junkie Radio last week about her upcoming visit to Japan, and the bout with Nakai:
“I feel like I’ve got a good fan base there,” she said. “The Japanese fans have been following my career, potentially, longer than Rin’s.”
The event will actually mark Tate’s second visit to Saitama Super Arena. Last year, she cornered her training partner and longtime boyfriend Bryan Caraway for a bout.
Some fans have questioned whether a victory over Nakai would help Tate receive another title shot at champion Ronda Rousey.
“Rin Nakai is relatively unknown to the generally public,” Tate agreed. “But she’s 16-0. Dana White knows that. She’s legit and she’s tough. I don’t know exactly where it puts me, but I hope it says I’m closer to getting a title shot one more time. If it’s not, I’d like to face Cat Zingano again.”
Tate noted the respect that Japanese crowds are known for: “If I wanted to fight anywhere else (but the US), it’d be Japan. They’re such a respectful culture. It would be different in Brazil! But, I love Japan.”
Additions to her camp include Raquel Paaluhi, a strong grappler from Hawaii who plans to move to Las Vegas to train full time.
UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Nelson will be broadcast on UFC Fight Pass.