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Bellator 157: Satoshi Ishii can thank Gegard Mousasi and Rico Verhoeven for his improved striking

Bellator MMA

Bellator 157 "Dynamite 2" comes to Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Fri., June 24, 2016. The scheduled main event for the card starting at 8 p.m. ET is a fight between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Satoshi Ishii.

Jackson has a four fight win streak going which includes his recent (and brief) return to the Zuffa fold for UFC 186 in Montreal. Although it seemed unlikely at the time, Bellator and Jackson mended fences leading to his eventual return.

Ishii won't be a cakewalk for Jackson's re-debut with the promotion. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist in judo for Japan translated those skills to MMA well, amassing a career record of 14-5-1 that includes a knockout and six submissions.

The downside for Ishii is having to rebound from a first round finish in the Rizin Heavyweight Grand Prix, the same tournament where his opponent Jiri Prochazka was ultimately be knocked out by "King Mo" in the tournament final.

Satoshi Ishii recently talked to about fighting Jackson in St. Louis on June 24 and how his preparations are going for that huge fight.

"I'm feeling great. I'm excited and yeah a little nervous. I can't wait to fight! These days I'm working on striking stuff and also cardio and physical. Five times a week (I do) hard sparring. I did a lot of sparring and of course I put together a game plan (for Jackson)."

That much emphasis on sparring can only mean Ishii expects a stand-up war from Jackson, which the latter asks for in every fight he has these days. For his part Ishii seems happy to oblige.

"Yes I can fight striking and ground -- everything. I used to (be) more of a ground fighter but I work on a lot of striking stuff and it is coming along you know."

With their respective backgrounds in wrestling and judo, one might expect Jackson and Ishii to at least try one takedown if the stand-up isn't going well, but Ishii has little fear of Jackson winning that battle.

"He has some hands and (he's) physically strong, but I don't think he's good (at) wrestling. My takedown is my most strongest point and I have confidence I can take down everybody. I must put pressure on him and I can expect to take him down and go to the ground and make (it) a ground game."

For Ishii that confidence comes naturally not just from being an Olympic level judoka but from how those skills translated into mixed martial arts once he learned to both take and give a punch.

"(The) most difficult thing was striking of course because in judo they are not striking. In judo you never get punched! I had to get used to getting punched and striking -- those were the most difficult things to me."

Ishii has amassed a team of GLORY kickboxers and UFC stars to help him continually improve his striking skills.

"I'm training with Gegard Mousasi and also sometimes Rico Verhoeven -- the GLORY Heavyweight Champion. Very nice, very tough training camp I did. Yes (my striking) it's coming along."

Ishii has had less than a handful of fights outside of Japan, including one in Brazil with Paulo Filho and one in Russia with Jeff "The Snowman" Monson, but this will be his first appearance in North America.

"Yeah this is my first fight in the United States, so that's why it's (a) very important fight to me. When I was younger I wanted to (have) success in the United States, so I must win the fight. So yeah it's very special for me -- a special fight for me."

The challenge for Ishii is to not let the weight of fulfilling a lifelong dream while simultaneously headlining a Bellator card against Jackson become too much to bear.

"I'm excited (and) also a little nervous, but everybody have pressure and gets nervous -- this is normal. Pressure makes me more sharp and more focused, more excited, so you know I feel good."

I asked Ishii to pick out some highlights from his career for American fans who want to get to know him a little better before "Dynamite 2" in St. Louis.

"Yeah maybe Inoki -- Inoki (Genome) Fight. I fought Tim Sylvia and Pedro Rizzo and Sean McCorkle. Jeff Monson also I fought -- those guys were very tough fights. I think those fights."

Ishii can hardly be blamed for that choice given he was on an eight fight win streak when he faced all of those men, and he submitted the taller and heavier McCorkle with a kimura in under three minutes.

In closing I asked Ishii what he does to relax when he's not preparing for a big fight like "Rampage" Jackson.

"I just meet with my friends like Gegard or listen to music, watch movies, like this. I am you know boring!"

Ishii is anything but boring once the cage door shuts so look forward to a Heavyweight throwdown in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center on June 24.

Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.


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