The Reboot of Yusuke Yachi

After lackluster results in recent years, Yusuke Yachi feels recent changes can spark a new chapter in his career.

Yusuke Yachi wearing a black t-shirt and a white headband while walking to the ring.
Yusuke Yachi is set to appear at RIZIN’s June 27th event (RIZIN FF)

Yusuke Yachi knows what people are saying. He’s heard people’s opinions on his fights, and he shares many of the opinions that others have. Words like “pathetic” are mentioned by him when discussing his recent track record.

He even knows that some have speculated he could retire from MMA after his next appearance. With his upcoming fight against Yuki Kawana at RIZIN’s June 27th event, the 31-year-old hopes to prove things are far from over.

“People are gossiping like I’m done, [or that] I’m almost going to retire … With my performance, I want to show everybody that I’m just starting,” said Yachi in an interview with Knockdown News through a translator.

Yachi’s expectation of an improved self comes months after a big change for him. Late last year, Yachi made the decision to leave Krazy Bee, a gym that he had associated with for years prior.

His departure from Krazy Bee is part of a much bigger trend as of late – other big names from the gym like Kotetsu Boku and AI have also left recently, seeking training elsewhere.

Yachi now trains at numerous gyms, including Lotus and Reversal Gym Tokyo Standout. His time at different gyms sees him work with many coaches, focusing on specific aspects of MMA with each.

He noted that the new environments have allowed him to work closely with coaches and absorb knowledge.

“I do feel like I’ve matured a lot in terms of a fighter … I can’t wait to go in there and show my new self,” he said.

The Yachi that most people know has struggled competitively in recent years.

Yachi’s initial run in RIZIN was strong. He entered the promotion in 2016, where he would start a campaign of quick and explosive stoppage wins. After winning five fights, a push to the headlining slot of a card in 2018 was where his struggles in the promotion started to show.

In the main event of RIZIN 12 in 2018, Yachi took his first promotional loss in brutal fashion – promotional newcomer Luiz Gustavo floored him with strikes in the second round, causing him to tumble face-first to the canvas.

The losses kept coming through the years. Now, Yachi finds himself having lost five out of his last six.

Yusuke Yachi lands a right hook to the head of Juri Ohara.
Yusuke Yachi fighting Juri Ohara at RIZIN 24 (RIZIN FF)

Yachi last appeared in the RIZIN ring back in September against Juri Ohara. The fight started rough for Yachi, getting dropped by strikes in the opening frame. He was able to recover and make a somewhat late rally, causing the fight to become hard to call near the end. While the fight showed the perseverance of Yachi, in retrospect he felt it only made sense the way it went.

“That loss was meant to be. I can understand why I lost,” he said. “I fought like I was going to lose.”

Remaining critical of the fight, he maintains that there is a caveat to the situation: it brought him to make major life changes. If it wasn’t for that fight, he might have not pursued new ways of training.

“Because of that loss, I have a new environment. I’m treating myself and this sport differently,” said Yachi.

Should a win come the way of Yachi at RIZIN 29, there would still be work to do. He hopes that a victory against Kawana, the Shooto Japan Lightweight Champion, can be the first of many regional champs that he can defeat on a campaign towards a big fight in RIZIN.

“Hopefully after beating all these domestic champions and being convincing of a title contender, I would want to go after that [RIZIN] title belt.”

Yachi feels that Kawana is a hard first opponent in this run. He credits his toughness but also sees it as something he wants to test.

“I want to make him quit during the fight … I want to break that will,” said Yachi, who later mentioned he wants to finish the fight.

Yachi can’t prove he’s ready for a title shot in his next fight. To be considered in that conversation would take many strong showings in the ring. But for now, that’s not what he wants people to know: right now, he wants to show he’s not going anywhere.

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