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Mizuki Inoue set to return after three-year layoff, treating comeback fight like ‘new debut’

Mizuki Inoue is one of the few fighters who carry Japan’s flag in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

At age 16, Inoue began her professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career at Flyweight and quickly became a prospect to watch. An eventual drop to Strawweight was in the cards for the Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture native, and after six fights she made her United States debut in Invicta Fighting Championship.

Almost exclusively competing in Deep Jewels and Invicta throughout her career, Inoue has fought twice inside the Octagon thus far, going 1-1. Now 28, Inoue (14-6) has seen the largest gap of inactivity in her 12 years as a professional fighter, having not fought since Aug. 2020 in a losing effort opposite future title challenger, Amanda Lemos. Unfortunately, the time away wasn’t by choice, as Inoue suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that’s kept her sidelined.

“I was preparing to get a fight offer so I was gearing up my training schedule and stuff like that, but once I signed the bout agreement for my comeback, I realized it’s been three years since I last fought,” Inoue told MMA Mania on BROADENED HORIZIN. “I was excited about making the comeback before I signed the bout agreement. Now I’ve signed and I feel a little bit of a cautiousness so maybe I feel a little scared about it.

“I’m approaching this fight almost like my new debut fight,” she concluded.

Inoue’s return bout is set to go down against Hannah Goldy at UFC Vegas 79 on Sept. 23, 2023, in a Strawweight affair.

Having taken her time to properly recover from the substantial injury, Inoue admits to thinking about her knee in training sessions and protecting it. Her body now reacts naturally in ways to avoid dangerous positions or situations, but she’s not concerned about any re-injuries thanks to her good (and lengthy) rehab process.

“I felt a sense of so-called awkwardness,” Inoue said of being out for so long. “When I decided to do this surgery, I knew it’s going to take at least a full year of recovery and going through the rehab to get back to the normal walking stage. When I made that decision, I said to myself, ‘I have to take this long stretch of break,’ so that’s okay. I knew this was going to happen.”

Inoue’s upcoming match up is one she likes her chances in. Pointing out that her opponent has also fought at both 115 and 125 pounds as she has. The only advantage she concedes is in punching power, therefore, as long as she can avoid the big shots, she thinks she’ll be alright. Of her six defeats, Inoue has never been finished.

A welcome visitor arrived in Japan earlier this year to work on their training camp, which resulted in Inoue acquiring some valuable experience, especially at this time. It’s not every day that anyone just gets to train with an all-time great, after all.

“When training with her, I felt like, yes, she is a champion,” Inoue said of training with Valentina Shevchenko. “I could see why she was a champion and I felt like I have so many things to still work on. But when you really think about it, I went into training with her, it’s not like I set up my gameplan or anything like that. So, I did train with her irregularly, striking and ground, and she was really better than me — much, much better than me — in every department of the game. That was back in February and I felt that I need to work way more to get better and to a higher stage. From February to now, that gave me sort of a turning point in motivation for me. It’s made me better.”

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


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