Up-and-coming middleweight Hisaki Kato had just one goal at Bellator 139 back on June 26: "become famous" in his fight against kickboxing star Joe Schilling, who had himself become famous among mixed martial arts (MMA) fans for his spectacular knockout of Melvin Manhoef.
Schilling was looking for redemption after a close decision loss to Rafael Carvalho, but he would not find it in Mulvane, Kansas. Kato fulfilled his promise 34 seconds into the second round of their Spike TV scrap with a highlight reel "Superman" punch.
Watch the replay here.
After the fight, Kato explained to Bellator announcer Jimmy Smith that Japanese fighters love striking just as much as wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and that he only needed one shot to knock Schilling clean out.
MMAmania.com took the opportunity to ask Kato about his fight against "Stitch 'em Up," his post-match promo, and why he felt it was necessary to remind viewers that Japanese fighters can also land heavy hands.
"I know jiu-jitsu or grappler, there is a lot of good Japanese fighters, but actually the kickboxing and a lot of different styles of karate are really effective even now. We do have good fighters, good strikers, and yes I wanted to prove that."
Kato had the ideal opponent in Schilling to prove his point, and he expected a stylistically good match-up with a lot of opportunities to land a big punch.
"I was sure he was willing to do a lot of kickboxing techniques, but it means using the kickboxing stance too, and from that point I knew what kind of distance I should have to be able to do what I wanted to do. I had the plan in my head."
In a middleweight division currently lacking a champion, the door is wide open for a new fighter with heavy hands to earn a title shot. Kato is modest about such aspirations, refusing to even call out potential opponents.
"I don't like to say that I want to fight this guy and not this guy you know, it's not my view about being a martial artist. Of course my manager and promoter will have something to say in the process, but for me, I don't want to be the guy who is selecting his opponents, it's not my conception of being a martial artist."
Kato was born in France, raised Japanese by his father, and is a dual-citizen of both countries as a result. Kato was elated for Cheick Kongo's victory in the main event, as someone he feels can understand his background.
"I was really happy for him and I was really happy to be able to fight on the same card. He's a really nice guy and to tell more he's French. But like me not like real white French so, I think we have a few things in common."
As someone with both French and Japanese backgrounds, the American lifestyle and cuisine might have been a culture shock coming to Kansas, but Kato says he has prior experience that helped him adapt.
"Well you have to know all the ingredients you eat, and when you change the country and you don't have the same product, it can be difficult to do your diet. For me, I grew up in France, then went to California for a year, then from there back to Japan, then been traveling quite a lot so... I do know what I can eat and can't eat before a fight."
He ate right, he prepared right, and he had a spectacular performance on June 26th, but does his one-punch knockout set the bar too high for future Bellator MMA fights?
"Yeah, of course! That's what it is. I did a really heavy knockout so of course people will want to see the same next fight. I can imagine what Bellator are thinking now."
They're thinking Hisaki Kato, main card for Spike TV, and another chance to show off his MMA skills. The complete audio of our interview with Kato is below.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.