Our guest writer, Mark Pickering, comes to us again with another great story about Daijiro Matsui and his return to Deep! Check this out!
Famed shoot wrestler Matsui, 48, makes MMA return on Sunday
Former UWF International pro wrestler Daijiro Matsui makes a surprise return to MMA on Sunday after a four-year absence as the 48-year-old rematches his 2008 foe Young Choi at DEEP Osaka Impact 2021 on Sunday.
Matsui, who has recently joined upstart pro wrestling company GLEAT, which aims to rekindle the shoot-style pro wrestling of the UWF era, has been away from the MMA scene since 2017 when he lost out to Hiroki Tanaka by decision in Demolition Xtreme Fighting Championship.
The PRIDE, KOTC and Cage Rage veteran, who burst on the scene as a pro wrestler in the mid-’90s, as a protégé of Nobuhiko Takada, has already had 54 MMA fights having turned pro in 1998 and trained extensively with fellow catch wrestling standouts such as Kazushi Sakuraba.
The Okayama native graduated from the renowned International Budo University, excelling in amateur wrestling and judo, and was scouted by a number of professional scouts and eventually decided to pursue a pro wrestling career before making the traditional switch to MMA.
Due to his pro wrestling background, Matsui was typically overmatched in his many PRIDE outings but still, he took the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Igor Vovchanchyn, Vitor Belfort, and Murilo ‘Shogun’ Rua the distance while recording a win over Quinton ‘The Rampage’ Jackson in 2001 by disqualification (knee to the groin) but most relevantly he earned a split decision victory over Young Choi at DEEP Impact 34 some 13 years ago in Tokyo.
Choi, 42, who sports a 20-12-3 record, is also a pro wrestler for independent company Land’s End which was formed in 2016 by Ryouji Sai.
“I was always practicing and in good condition so that I could be called to the match at any time,” said Matsui, who, like a true pro wrestler, is already ready to compete in any setting.
“I remember Choi is a very strong and a great player who could hit and kick to a high level.”
When quizzed about his long absence from MMA, Matsui, acknowledged his inactivity but shared his desire to give his all with this potentially being his last MMA fight.
“There are some blanks in my MMA record in recent years but I’m going to put on a show to atone for my absence in recent times.”
Matsui, like many pro wrestling, turned MMA converts before him, and most recently, Shinya Aoki, doesn’t distinguish MMA from pro wrestling.
“I don’t draw a line between professional wrestling and MMA and I think wrestling and MMA are the same.”
The veteran fighter, who recalled his decision win over Chute Boxe legend Jose ‘Pele’ Landi-Jons (2001) as the greatest moment of his MMA career to date, declared that he approaches every wrestling match and MMA fight with the same level of preparation and desire to leave a lasting impression.
“Every match is important because the groups are passionate about every single competition that is held be it MMA or wrestling.
“All exercises and all training sessions are memorable. I’m always appreciative of those in Japan who prepare a wonderful practice environment.”
As a long-time student of former PRIDE superstar Takada, Matsui shared what he regards as the best piece of advice his legendary mentor offered him.
“Takada-san told me, ‘Of all the mental and physical skills, you have the same mind and body, so practice your skills at the dojo and grow’ and I never forgot those words.”
In order to prepare for his MMA return, Matsui has gone down the pro wrestling route, seeking outshoot wrestling master Kiyoshi Tamura.
“I was instructed by Kiyoshi Tamura, the Executive Director of GLEAT at U-FILE CAMP, and I have also practiced with my GLEAT friends. Other than that, I have hit mitts in the park and run on hills to improve my endurance.”
The amenable and unassuming Japanese shooter closed the interview with a message to fans of MMA and pro wrestling.
“I want you to see everything from the I make my entrance to the time I leave the venue. Please look forward to the fight of GLEAT professional wrestler Daijiro Matsui.”