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Olympic silver medalist Shinobu Ota views 2023 as ‘make or break’ year in MMA: ‘I look at MMA as a triathlon’

“I’m going to be entering my third year after transitioning to MMA and this year I’ve got to do it.”

Shinobu Ota is motivated and ready for war at RIZIN Landmark 5 this weekend (Sat., April 29, 2023).

Dec. 2020 saw the Olympic silver medalist in wrestling make his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut against one of the sport's most seasoned pioneers. Tasked with the near-70-fight veteran, Hideo Tokoro, Ota was swimming with the sharks from the jump.

Unfortunately for Ota, 29, he succumbed to an armbar submission in round two against his vastly experienced opponent. The Greco-Roman wrestling-based athlete has since gone 2-1 but once again enters a calendar year looking to rebound, this time off a July 2022 unanimous decision loss to another veteran, Yuki Motoya.

“Last year, I wasn’t able to compete too much,” Ota told MMA Mania on BROADENED HORIZIN. “I only had one fight, which I lost. So, this year I really want to get more fights in and I want to win them all and eventually get myself into a position where I can go after that title. This year is gonna be the year of commitment. This is gonna be the year where I have to step it up.

“I’m going to be entering my third year after transitioning to MMA and this year I’ve got to do it,” he concluded. “This year is probably gonna be the year where I make it or break it.”

Ota is as accomplished as any Bantamweight wrestler comes in MMA, winning gold medals in the Asian Games and Asian Wrestling Championships both in 2018, World Championships in 2019, and his Olympic silver medal in 2016. Reflecting on the Motoya loss, Ota realized he’d been fighting his MMA fights too heavily with his wrestling base and now knows he needs more diversity in his attack and takedown setups.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is Ota’s peak goal after eventually getting his hands on the 135-pound RIZIN Fighting Federation title. First, the Gonohe, Aomori Prefecture native will have to get past Kazuma Kuramoto, who he intends to show his continued evolution as a complete fighter.

“Ultimately, my ideal style is to be able to strike and utilize my wrestling at the fullest,” Ota said. “Obviously, MMA has basically if you break it down, striking, wrestling, and grappling — submissions. These three aspects. I look at MMA as a triathlon and wrestling is one of those aspects. Triathlons have you run, swim, and bike. Wrestling is one aspect, but if you’re a really good swimmer and you can’t run or bike, you can’t win a triathlon, right? You have to be good overall.

“Obviously, you have the background that benefits but you need to do everything and that’s what MMA is,” he continued. “That’s how I look at MMA. So, just like winning a triathlon, I can’t win with just wrestling. I have to work on my striking, I have to work on my submission game. I am very confident in my MMA wrestling, but the other stuff, striking, submissions, I have to start from zero. I know that striking takes more time and for grappling, the more you learn, the more you know you have to learn. It’s an endless loop. Overall, over time, it’s nice to be able to become a well-rounded overall fighter. But within that well-roundedness, I still think that I am a wrestler and I would like to utilize my wrestling heavily at the end of the day.”

Watch the full episode in the video embedded above or you can listen on Spotify.


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