Much has been made about tonight’s UFC Fight Night event in Saitama, Japan, and how it will serve as a homecoming for heavyweight Josh Barnett.
Barnett, who faces Roy Nelson in tonight’s main event, was one of the mainstays of the PRIDE promotion during the heyday of Japanese MMA in the mid 2000’s. Despite not fighting in Japan since 2010, he still enjoys a strong following there — partly due to his appearances in Japanese pro wrestling matches.
But there’s another fighter who makes something of a homecoming tonight: middleweight Gegard Mousasi, who faces Uriah Hall in the co-main event.
“It’s an advantage for me fighting in Japan,” Mousasi told Ken Pishna of MMAWeekly. “I’m familiar there. I have friends there. I’ve been fighting so long there… it’s new for my opponent. For me, it’s nothing new. It’s like fighting in my backyard.”
Mousasi plied his trade for years in Japan, earning titles at several weight division in the DREAM promotion as well as making appearances for PRIDE, DEEP, and Dynamite 2009.
He hopes this bout will be the next step to striking gold with the UFC, but is realistic about the task ahead of him.
“My goal is a title shot, but I’m not going to get a title with (a win over) Uriah Hall,” he said. “My keys to get to the title is beat my next opponent and finish him from this fight. And then, if I have three fights in a row (where I) win, I hope, I hope Vitor Belfort fight this time.”
“He doesn’t want to fight me, knowing Vitor Belfort,” he continued. “I hope that Vitor Belfort or Michael Bisping has a good fight, they are top-ranked high-name fighters, if I beat one of them, I could be in the line next.”