Okami Has Eyes on Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva
--- In preparation for your fight against Chael Sonnen, have you watched any video on him?
Yes. He is a so-called "American-style" fighter. Box for a bit and then tackle, hold the opponent, use elbows, and start pounding. He's a very strong fighter - probably the strongest opponent I have ever faced.
--- So are you thinking to avoid his takedown and to take him down?
Yes. I also want to score points with my striking. I want to get top position on the ground, and if I do get on the bottom I intend to get right back up.
--- Sonnen lost at UFC95 to Demian Maia by way of triangle choke.
Maia fought a brilliant fight, so I don't think it serves as good reference for my fight with Sonnen. Maia locked in a triangle choke off of a throw. Not many fighters can pull off that kind of feat. Everyone knows what Sonnen is going to do, so if I can avoid the takedown I feel I will be dictating the fight.
--- You has to pull out of UFC98 due to an injury. How has the recovery been going?
I've fully recovered.
--- Do you feel you've improved any parts of your fight game during your time away from fighting?
While I couldn't spar, I worked intensively on strength and conditioning. I feel very good right now.
--- How much do you weigh right now?
I weigh 98 kg. My max was 100.8 kg (laughter). I don't eat any more than I used to, but the strength training has helped me add more muscle.
--- In the middleweight division, Anderson Silva is the biggest star. Did you watch his fight against Forrest Griffin at UFC 101?
Yes, it shocked me. I thought Anderson would win, but the way he won was unbelievable. Griffin is a former light heavyweight champ, but Anderson made it look like he was fighting a B-class fighter. People were talking bad after the fight versus Thales Leites, so Anderson must have wanted to prove something. You don't want to get him too upset (laughter).
--- The UFC interviewing sessions lead you to utter some inflammatory comments, don't they?
It's become less recently. The filming crew must be saying, "He won't say anything!" (laughter)
--- What should we look for in your fight with Sonnen?
It's been a while since I've fought, so I want to see how much I can push - test myself. I'm excited. I want everyone to see my overall improvements.
--- What's your plan after the Sonnen fight?
I haven't really thought about it much, but there are fighters above Sonnen so I want to concentrate on winning fight by fight. And then I want to challenge Anderson Silva.
--- The UFC middleweight division has steadily become loaded with talent, so winning has become more difficult it seems. How do you view that?
Your game has to continuously evolve. Every day I strive to evolve.
--- Have you gotten used to fighting in the US?
Before I came to the UFC, I fought overseas so I feel comfortable. Actually I think I would be more nervous about fighting in Japan. Also because the crowd would be all Japanese (laughter).
--- One of your training partners, Yoshihiro Akiyama, fought and won against Alan Belcher in UFC 100. What did you think about the fight?
He was more aggressive than usual, moving forward with strikes. Even when his opponent came forward, he was striking from short distance. AKiyama-san was really determined. He got the takedowns at every important point and was able to score on the UFC judging criteria. There was no other Japanese middleweight fighters, so that fight served as big motivation for me.
--- Akiyama said that you "already possess the strength to become a champion. You just need to get the timing down. Eventually I want to fight Okami in a championship fight."
That makes me happy. If it's for the championship, I definitely want to fight. With my Japanese counterpart, it's our dream.
--- Is there any hesitance to fight a fellow student?
With Akiyama, we train together sometimes but we're from different posts, so it wouldn't be an issue. I don't think we'd fight in a non-title fight, but I think we'd both be happy with the opportunity to face each other in a championship fight.
--- We hope to see that one day.
Thank you very much.