By Caoilte de Barra
Japan’s national team standout Reo Yamaguchi returned to action on December 25 at Pancrase 330. It was the four-time IMMAF medalist’s first time competing since his 2021 World Championships outing earlier this year.
Across from Yamaguchi in the JMMAF-authorized single match was ITF Taekwondo Black Belt Arashi Okada. The bantamweight match-up was the sole amateur bout on a card stacked with some of Japan’s up-and-coming professional talent.
It was a successful run out for Yamaguchi to bring him back into the win column after losing in his second contest of the 2021 World Championships back in January. Over three rounds, Yamaguchi’s striking was on point, but his ability to work in his wrestling and take his opponent down at will made the difference as he comfortably took home a decision win.
Yamaguchi was keen to compete again this year, and it looked like the opportunity would not come after missing out on the Asian Championships. However, once the Pancrase bout came up, he ensured to take his chance to get some rounds in before heading to the 2022 World Championships.
“I wanted to fight anyway because I couldn’t compete in the Asian championships with the Japanese team. But this time, I had a training camp with JMMAF head coach, Mr Suzuki, and I was ready to fight at bantamweight again.”
Outside of competition, it has been a busy year for the Tiger Muay Thai athlete. After returning to Thailand following the World Championship, he opted to part ways with AKA Thailand and join one of Thailand’s biggest gyms, a decision that has paid off.
“I moved my base to Tiger Muay Thai. I train there with more hungry fighters and have gained strong mental strength. I would also like to thank the professional coaches in each field. I’ve especially improved in boxing and wrestling. Finally, living alone after leaving Japan is not easy, but living in Thailand has helped me grow as a person too.”
His time in Tiger Muay Thai has seen him train daily with some of the best bantamweights from around the World, an invaluable experience that will be key as he targets a World gold medal before pursuing the pro ranks.