Ren Hiramoto’s MMA debut didn’t go how he wanted it to.
There we some parts of it that were optimal: It was in RIZIN on New Year’s Eve, providing the biggest stage possible for a fight in Japanese MMA. It also came against Kyohei Hagiwara, who Hiramoto had publicly feuded with in the weeks building up to the fight.
But troubles for Hiramoto started the second the bell rang. The former K-1 Japan kickboxer quickly showed that he had a lot to learn, as he was taken down and battered with ground and pound strikes from Hagiwara.
It was all over by the second round.
“I really had to really rely on striking. Maybe I should say I was betting on my striking […] [I think] my opponent said that he’s going to teach me total MMA. And that’s what he did to me,” said Hiramoto in an interview with Knockdown News.
Things have changed since then. Heading into his second fight, a March 6th RIZIN bout against Chihiro Suzuki, Hiramoto feels he has “become a total MMA fighter” finally.
That change didn’t happen overnight.
Hiramoto spent a large chunk of 2021 out of the spotlight – and outside of Japan as well. He traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, where notable MMA team Roufusport is located. For many months, that gym, and that city of just under 600,000, was his home.
There he learned about how to compete as an MMA fighter. He rounded out his game with big names in the sport, including UFC veteran Gerald Meerschaert and Bellator Bantamweight Champion Sergio Pettis.
Gym time wasn’t the only thing that Hiramoto enjoyed in the U.S. He also noted that consuming a different culture was a big experience for him. Getting to hear different perspectives, do different things, and see other styles of fashion were all valuable to him.
“America is the country that I wish I met way before,” said Hiramoto. “This is where I feel like I can really pursue my dream.” Hiramoto now says he wants to move to the U.S. “as soon as possible.”
Hiramoto feels the work for his next fight has been done. He has learned a lot and has the fire to participate again. Regarding the incoming matchup, Hiramoto isn’t too worried about how it will finish. However, he hopes that the performance can show how well he can fit into the sport.
“My desire in a way is to try to actually finish him this opponent with the submissions or something on the ground with MMA […] But either way, I want to show the fans how monstrous and scary I can be in MMA.”
Not Everyone Is A Hiramoto Fan
Hiramoto is aware of how he can be a polarizing figure at times. The often outspoken 23-year-old has made himself an anti-hero at times by going after other fighters.
While Hiramoto was certainly out of focus in 2021, he would slip into conversations at times due to his social media shots at fighters. This includes mentions of former opponent Hagiwara or RIZIN star Mikuru Asakura.
Hiramoto has embraced how some don’t like him. He does this since he feels those who send negative things end up doing a good job at promoting him in the long run.
“They reply to all my comments in like 20-30 seconds, retweet all my tweets, and have a great distribution power,” he said, regarding “anti-fans.”
When asked about fighting foes Hagiwara or Asakura, Hiramoto expressed interest in either. But for now, he remains focused on his next assignment. You can’t get far with no wins on your record, after all.
“As long as I win, [either] fight is going to happen. But for now, I’m just concentrating on winning this next fight in a dominant matter. Then I will still [keep] making fun of Mikuru [Asakura] or Hagiwara on SNS just make things go on.”
Other Notes From This Week
When I first started working on this issue, I didn’t think there was much news to discuss. But now that it is all listed out, there is actually quite a lot to go over:
- As mentioned in the featured story this week, RIZIN announced some fights.
- Eight bouts in total were confirmed for the promotion’s February 23rd “TRIGGER” event. That show now has 11 fights in total.
- Speaking of that show, I’ll have another interview related to that event in next week’s issue…
- RIZIN announced their second “LANDMARK” show for March 6th. It has three fights on it, including the return of Ren Hiramoto.
- A full report on these announcements can be read here.
- Tatsuro Taira is now part of the UFC roster, per his new management team Iridium Sports Agency. As I’ve mentioned before, Taira is a super-prospect. At 22 years old, he has an undefeated record of 10 wins. Let’s see how he does in the promotion’s flyweight division.
- DEEP Impact announced some fights for their back-to-back events in mid-March this week.
- Pancrase announced that Yusaku Kinoshita will face Akihiro Murayama at their April 29th card. Kinoshita is returning to the promotion after losing a fight on a RIZIN “TRIGGER” card late last year.
- 11 fights in total are set for Pancrase 326 now.
- ONE Championship will present “Bad Blood” from Singapore on Friday. Dream FC alum Bibiano Fernandes will attempt to defend his belt against former UFC fighter John Lineker in the main event. JMMA will also be represented lower on the card with performances from Ken Hasegawa and Yosuke Saruta.