By Caoilte de Barra
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen some national teams compete under the IMMAF-WMMAA banner, in particular countries like Japan, who haven’t featured since 2019. The federation was routinely entering in competitions before the pandemic hit and are hoping to get back to its old ways. Starting with the World Championships in January.
Japan has had some strong contenders through the years, many of which have since turned pro. However, the stalwart on the team has been Reo Yamaguchi. He has been the standout competitor for Japan over the years, picking up a medal in every competition he has entered. His trilogy of finals with Muhammad Mokaev saw him walk away with three silver medals. Two of which were at the World Championships. His sole gold medal came at the 2018 IMMAF Oceania Open Championships.
His performances and medal contribution to Japan has always made them a nation to watch. A tradition that he will be hoping to continue and build on. To do this he has been dedicating his life to the sport and training in AKA Thailand.
“Currently I live in Phuket as a sponsored fighter of AKA Thailand and do hard training 2-3 times a day. Mike Swick, the manager, the staff, the coaches and a lot of friends are helping me, so I definitely want to show them the gold medal.”
To end 2021 he received his BJJ purple belt and earned himself a spot on the coveted AKA Thailand team wall. While training there he has been working on his English fluency as well as the technical aspect of the sport. Yamaguchi went on to explain that he’s not just a competitor and that the sport is his life.
“MMA is my lifestyle, so it doesn’t matter if there is no competition. But I wanted to show all my supporters around the world how I’ve been improving as a fighter.”
“I’ve improved all of my striking, wrestling and BJJ to be a well-rounded fighter. Please expect me to win the gold medal for the first time for Japan.”
His eyes are set on gold but it’s not at Junior Bantamweight like we have seen in the past. This time he will be moving up to the Senior Featherweight division to test himself against the best at 145lbs. At only 22 years of age, this competition will be an opportunity for him to break the 20 fight mark and add another division to his medal tally.
Joining Reo with team Japan at the 2021 Senior & Junior World Championships will be coach Hidetoshi Yamaguchi and team official Sayumi Yamaguchi.