Takeya Mizugaki is preparing to clash with Erik Perez at UFC on Fox Sports 1 #2: "Condit vs. Kampmann 2" in a bantamweight fight which pits Japan and Mexico, two nations which have often gone head-to-head in the squared circle, together in the Octagon for the very first time.
This minor piece of UFC history will be the last thing on Mizugaki's mind on August 28, much more important is the opportunity to steal some of the momentum of an opponent riding an eight-fight win streak and register a third successive victory for the first time since 2008.
Since signing for the WEC and suffering a decision defeat at the hands of Miguel Torres in 2009, Mizugaki has consistently alternated wins and losses, a remarkable run which only came to an end with successive wins against Jeff Hougland at UFC on Fuel TV 6 and Bryan Caraway at UFC on Fuel TV 8.
As the 29 year old prepares to take on Perez in Indianapolis, he has the luxury of knowing that, for once, he is probably closer to a title shot than getting cut. A third consecutive win would cement Mizugaki's status as a 135-pound contender and he feels he is finally ready to make a name for himself in the UFC.
"I do feel like I did step up to the next level (by winning back-to-back fights) but I don't have a feeling of relief or anything like that. I want to ride on this momentum and keep on winning."
Had it not been for a highly controversial loss to Chris Cariaso at UFC 144, the Japanese fighter would almost certainly be top 10 in the official rankings. UFC President Dana White was so disgusted by the unanimous decision rendered by the judges that day, he decided to pay Mizugaki his win bonus anyway.
Nine of Mizugaki's 11 bouts for WEC and UFC have gone the distance with three split decisions going in his favor and he says he has been working on ways to try to finish fights.
"I do feel that I do need to improve on my offense. I am going to be better at attacking in this upcoming fight. In order for me to get close to a title fight I know I need to finish my opponent."
Some Japanese fighters have chosen to train in the U.S., notably Yushin Okami and Yoshihiro Akiyama, and they frequently cite the difficulty in finding a single facility to cater to all their needs as professional mixed martial artists in their homeland as a reason for doing so.
Mizugaki doesn't feel he has to cross the Pacific in order to prepare properly for his UFC bouts, instead preferring to train in a multitude of disciplines in his homeland in a schedule which he outlines here:
"Monday morning I go to Ground Slam in Yokohama for MMA sparring then at night I do physical and conditioning training at night. Tuesday I do Pilates in the morning and kickboxing sparring at Hekkei Gym at night.
Wednesday, I do physical and conditioning training in morning then at night I go to Hosei University to train with their wrestling team. Thursday, I do MMA sparring at the Ground Slam, then at night, I go to Hakkei Gym for kickboxing and striking sparring.
Friday, I take morning off then at night back to Hakkei Gym for kickboxing sparring. Saturday, I do physical and conditioning work out for an entire day.
Sunday is off."
"For MMA sparring I train with Shuichichirou Katsumura, Michihiro Omigawa, Caol Uno, Hideo Tokoro, Daiki Tsuhiya, and Michinori Tanaka. Many top Japanese fighters come to train at Ground Slam so it's a good environment to get intense MMA sparring. For kickboxing and striking, I spar with a former K-1 fighter turned pro boxer, and my team mate at Hakkei Gym, Yoshimichi Matsumoto."
Mizugaki has been fortunate enough to fight in Asia a couple of times, but says he would rather fly to the U.S. than have to step inside the Octagon early on a Sunday morning.
"For Macao show, yes, I felt good fighting there, easy to travel to. But for the Japan show, it starts early in the morning, so I am not sure if I really like that, I actually like fighting in U.S. better."
Mizukagi's last three fights have all been in Asia, but at UFC on Fox Sports 1 #2: "Condit vs. Kampmann 2" he will be returning to the states where he has competed eight times to date, splitting four wins and four losses. It looks set to be a decisive moment in the career of the Japanese bantamweight, but the only prediction he is willing to make is that his bout with Perez won't be boring.
"He is young and he is vigorous and aggressive too, so this is going to be a very good fight for sure."