With one swing of his right hand at ONE FC: "Pride of a Nation," Koji Oishi silenced the Filipino fans, won the ONE FC featherweight title and proved emphatically that, while countries like Korea and the Philippines are catching up fast, Japan is still very much number one when it comes to Asian mixed martial arts (MMA).
Oishi's win, which came at the expense of defending champion Honorio Banario, was particularly notable because it fell on his 36th birthday and was the defining moment of a career in which he has bounced between the minor and major leagues,
"I feel that this is my greatest achievement as a fighter. It has been a while since the fight but it still does not seem real, I am very pleased," he said.
All the attention in the build up to the title fight had been on Banario who was defending his belt for the first time in his home country meaning that Oishi more or less slipped under the radar. Had the fervent Filipino fans taken a glance at the Japanese veteran's record though they would have seen warning signs there, the challenger had been beaten only once in his previous 13 fights.
With an overall record of 24-9-10 Oishi has been in with likes of Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and Chris Lytle and is unbeaten at featherweight. He made his UFC debut in 2000 and has spent most of his career competing for Pancrase but he says the opportunity to fight for a ONE FC belt was something he simply could not turn down.
"I signed for ONE FC because I wanted to challenge for the title and I believed I could be champion. I do not want to compare it to others but ONE FC is a fighting event which has accomplished a lot in a very short space of time," he said.
Oishi is a former Lightweight King of Pancrase but he very nearly failed to take home the ONE FC 145 pound belt after an action-packed first round in which Banario had him badly hurt. The Japanese fighter looked out on his feet and the referee was taking a very close look at the action when the bell rang to end the round.
Ultimately, Oishi was able to use the minute long break to recover and then finish the fight with a huge overhand right in the second stanza but he is the first to admit that he barely made it past the five minute mark.
"I got big damage at the first round and if there was more time left the fight might have been stopped. Banario was so powerful and it felt like he had metal in his hands (please note that this is a Japanese expression, not a serious allegation!), it could easily have been the other way round and him winning by KO," he said.
After an indifferent run of results in his early thirties, when Oishi lost five fights out of 10, he has hit a rich vein of recent form being beaten only twice in his last 18 outings. His experience gives him a clear advantage over most of the other featherweights on the ONE FC roster and he is also extremely strong at 145 pounds, as you would expect from a fighter who has been campaigning against some of the best lightweights and welterweights in the world.
Eric Kelly is waiting in the wings while Bae Young Kwon could work his way into contention for a title shot if he wins a few fights in Korea but Oishi is going to take some beatings. He's fought well over 100 rounds in his MMA career and been in the ring or the cage with so many UFC title contenders that the 36 year old will feel he is capable of holding his own against the current crop of ONE FC challengers.
It could so easily have been different as Banario was seconds away from becoming the first man to stop Oishi since Katsuya Inoue in 2007, but the Japanese veteran has been on the scene a long time and after 13 years of fighting, training and hard work no one could begrudge him his moment in the limelight.
Winning the ONE FC title was the pinnacle of Oishi's lengthy career and what with him celebrating his 36th birthday on the same day some wild celebrations might have been in order but the champion's night out in Manila sounds delightfully tame,
"After my fight I went to restaurant for dinner with some fighters and other people and told the restaurant that today is my birthday. Then the restaurant gave me a cake and everyone celebrated my birthday!"