Takaki Soya has faced more roadblocks than many MMA fighters, but that’s not stopping him from trying to become the top flyweight talent in RIZIN.
Soya’s return to MMA in April was a long time coming. To be precise, it was 972 days in the making. After scoring two finish wins in RIZIN during a three month period in 2019, it was issues out of Soya’s control that kept him from immediately building on that streak.
For one year, Soya had to nurse a back injury. Then for another entire year, it was his Crohn’s Disease that kept him on the sidelines. He was unable to train for two full years during some of the best years of his athletic career and spent a large portion of it in the hospital.
“I lost a bunch of weight,” said Soya, reflecting on how his Crohn’s Disease stopped him from fighting, in an interview with Knockdown News. “Those were definitely times when I would doubt myself and question if I could ever get back in the ring again because my condition was so bad.”
Soya said he only got about six months worth of gym time in from his last fight to his return.
Determined on continuing what was a hot streak in the JMMA scene, Soya kept focused on returning to the sport during that entire timespan. The situation was undoubtedly unfortunate for him, but he saw it as a chance to grow.
“I thought that if I set a goal of training again and returning back into the ring […] this would be a chance to level up not only as a fighter, but as a person,” he said.
So nearly two years and eight months after his win over Yutaro Muramoto at RIZIN 18, Soya returned in April 2022. Some things were different: He was now on RIZIN’s “TRIGGER” series, which fights in a cage. He was facing someone who, around the last time he appeared, likely wouldn’t have been on his radar yet.
But one thing remained the same, and that was how Soya fought. Keeping with a style that he has now gained a reputation for, Soya finished opponent Nobuyoshi Nakatsukasa in the second round with ground and pound shots.
It wasn’t too hard for the 27 year old to find his rhythm in MMA again. When asking the pro how his last fight went, he said it didn’t feel like he was returning after such a long layoff.
Soya’s return after such a long break was a personal accomplishment for him.
“I’m not fighting in [MMA] trying to inspire people. I’m just doing this for myself, and I’m doing what I love to do,” he said.
However, Soya knows the impact he is having. Since his return, he has received lots of social media messages from fans that described how his return inspired them. This gave him perspective.
“[My return] definitely made me realize that what I’m doing is inspiring some people and it’s giving other people some power,” he said.
Soya can’t return to action immediately, citing an injury that he suffered during his fight in April. However, he says that the injury will “heal up pretty soon.” He certainly has time, as the promotion doesn’t have any events scheduled until July. And regarding his Crohn’s Disease, Soya said recent medical check-ups have shown him that he’s able to keep competing.
His wins might be spread out, but this is still true: Soya is currently on a three-fight winning streak in RIZIN, with all of the victories coming via finish. Looking forward, the Paraestra Matsudo flyweight hopes to break new ground in RIZIN and score more finishes along the way.
“I know that RIZIN doesn’t have a belt in my division,” he said. “I’m sure that they will [eventually] host a championship fight in the flyweight division. And when that happens, my goal is to get that belt around my waist.”
Other Notes From The Week
- Shooto Japan had a card yesterday. In the biggest fight on the card, Hayato Ishii defended his bantamweight Pacific Rim title with a three-round fight against Kota Onojima.
- Also: Atomweight prospect Chihiro Sawada picked up her second pro win, submitting veteran Hisae Watanabe with a rear naked choke! That’s a big win for her.
- Tapology has the results for this card updated. GONG also published a report on the event.
- Speaking of Shooto Japan… They revealed details about their June 5th event recently.
- The event will take place at the Sapporo ii-one Stadium.
- Shooto Japan Lightweight Champion Yamato Nishikawa is expected to face Korean talent Choi Ji-un. Nishikawa will be looking to extend his already impressive winning streak to 13 consecutive.
- More info.
- DEEP Impact is loading up their July 10th card, which is set to happen at the Tokyo Dome City Hall.
- The biggest fight so far is scheduled to see lightweight champ Juri Ohara face Yuma Ishizuka. This seems like an easy matchup for Ohara, who has won his last seven fights (woah!).
- Veterans Satoru Kitaoka and Hiroto Uesako are scheduled to meet on that card.
- In another intriguing matchup, Shooto Watanabe will face Takuma Uchiyama. This will be Watanabe’s return to DEEP, as he has mostly appeared in RIZIN and Fighting NEXUS in recent years.
- More info on the fight announcements here and here.
- Pancrase had a lengthy 21-fight event this weekend. Lots of Neo Blood Tournament bouts took place at that show. Lots of finishes on that show.
- CJ of Sogo-Kaku.com wrote five takeaways from DEEP Jewels 37, which took place just over a week ago. He offers an interesting argument about Rin Nakai and Saori Oshima. Both being champions isn’t the only thing they have in common, “as [they] both also have uncertain futures,” he writes. You can read the full article here.
- Time for the International Report!
- *Shuffles notes* uh not much actually happened this week, and another quiet week is ahead on the international front.
- Shinya Aoki appeared on a ONE Championship card, where he went to a draw against Kade Ruotolo in a 10-minute grappling bout. That bout, along with Tye Ruotolo vs. Garry Tonon were neat if you’re interested in that.
- Oh, Tabatha Ricci beat Polyana Viana on the UFC card this weekend. Where’s the Japanese combat sports correlation? Well, of course she competed under SEIZA in 2017! (Shoutout to GONG for mentioning this, I didn’t make the connection at first)
- The 2022 July issue of GONG has a front cover dedicated to “THE MATCH.” Pretty neat photo of Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru on the front. Could be a neat collectors item.