Photo via UFC.com
His decision loss to Nick Ring in his debut is widely regarded as being one of the worst decisions ever and UFC President Dana White took the unusual step of awarding both fighters win bonuses.
The former pro wrestler didn't fight again for almost a year after being forced to withdraw from one contest due to a car crash but after three rounds against Steve Cantwell at UFC 144, the judges did the right thing, for once, awarding Fukuda a much-deserved win.
Take a look.
When did you start training martial arts and why?
I belonged to the wrestling club in high school and university. I was a fan of MMA and watched it on TV or in magazines. After graduating, I wanted to challenge myself at something. So I started MMA training.
You made your pro MMA debut in the US, not Japan, why was that?
At that time, I was taught by Enson Inoue. He had finished his fighting career once, but he was returning to the US to fight. It so happened that I got a chance to fight in the same place, so that's why my pro debut was in the USA.
You took the fight with Murilo Rua at around 48 hours notice I think, was that a difficult decision and why did you decide to accept the fight?
It was really short notice but I knew this was a chance I could not let pass. I was not famous enough to get a fight with a big name like Ninja under normal conditions. So I had nothing to lose and much to gain. Also, it was easier for me to fight at 88kg, a more natural weight for me.
When the fight with Nick Ring ended were you confident you had won and what did you think when you heard the decision announced?
I was disappointed with the decision but accepted it. I was able to get take downs but I was unable to finish so I wasn’t certain that I had won in the eyes of the judges. I was encouraged afterwards as Dana White had some encouraging words as well as the fans and press.
After that experience were you very nervous waiting to hear the judges decision after the fight with Steve Cantwell?
I was quite certain that I had won the fight so I wasn’t so nervous this time. It was more a feeling of relief and contentment as I had come back from a broken knee that had kept me out of training and fighting for about one year.
How much do you think having a wrestling background helps you to compete in the UFC where there are a lot of fighters who are predominantly wrestlers?
There are some opponents I would like to fight standing and some I want to take to the ground. If you are good at wrestling it gives you the option to control the fight at your own pace. I think wrestling is very important in the UFC.
Where do you train and which trainers and fighters do you work with?
Right now for MMA, I train mainly at GRABAKA Gym. I also go to TRIBE TOKYO MMA and Wajitsukeishuukai. where I can train with Yushin Okami who is experienced and in my weight class.
My conditioning training is with HALEO TOP TEAM fighters Kazuo Misaki, Jaideep Singh and coach, Andrew Jackson. From the end of this month, I will spend the rest of my camp at AKA in San Jose until my fight in Vegas.
What are your thoughts on Constantinos Philippou as an opponent?
He is strong. He's good at ground but an even better striker. I think he's got great physical ability.
How much did you enjoy getting to fight for the UFC in Japan recently?
It was a great honor for me. It is always nice to fight in front of home fans and especially after the 3/11 disaster. I will never forget hearing the Japanese fans cheering for me.
Has your popularity in Japan increased since you signed for the UFC?
I don’t know about popularity but the UFC has gotten more attention in Japan since the show so I will work to grow new fans here.
You haven't fought too regularly in the last few years, how many times are you hoping to fight in 2012?
I would love to fight three or four times a year without injury, but every time I fight, I fight as if it were my last so I don’t really think past my next fight in July.
Are there any opponents at 185 you would particularly like to fight?
Right now I only have Constantios Philippou on my mind.
Thanks to David Halton from Haleo Top Team for arranging and translating this interview. For more information visit www.haleo.jp.