RIZIN FF has never been shy to try new things when it comes to its product.
Whether it’s rule changes, event appearances, or new fight types, trial and error is a must for the Japan-based promotion. At RIZIN 30 in September, the very first kickboxing bout between women opened the night – as well as the door for future possibilities.
Helping launch the historic moment was rising superstar Rina “Panchan” Okamoto and her veteran opponent, Momoka Mandokoro. The two battled back and forth for a competitive three rounds at 103-pounds. Ultimately, the ever-tactical approach of Panchan and her strong distance utilization would be too much for the under five-foot Mandokoro – Panchan walking away the victor via unanimous decision.
“I haven’t really had the most successful year,” Mandokoro told MyMMANews on BROADENED HORIZIN. “So for me to be called on such a great stage, and fighting on such a big platform, I felt like I didn’t really deserve the shot. But as long as I got the offer I felt like I needed to capitalize and take this opportunity and just go for it. The one thing that I learned from this fight is that I just realized how many people support me. So many people around me were happy about my opportunity to fight in RIZIN, they continued to support, and it just made me realize that I’m not in this alone. It made me feel grateful and re-appreciate why I’m being able to participate as a professional fighter.
“I don’t have the best technique out there and I know that, and I’m not too confident in my technique. But I know that I have the strongest heart and the strongest will. That’s what I fight with. So when I got the [initial] call, I was happy that people saw that in me. They saw that and they respected that part of my fight style.”
The 28-year old Mandokoro is known as “Osaka’s Queen of Kicking Ass” – a moniker she proudly reps when traveling to fight. Having now fought over 40 times professionally, it was never the 4-foot-9 striker’s intention to end up where she did.
Mandokoro’s mother already had an interest in combat sports before her daughter’s involvement. Therefore making it easy to be supportive for what would end up being a long and winding journey.
“To be honest, at the beginning, I had no intentions of being a professional fighter,” Mandokoro explained. “I had a very weak mentality so I wanted to develop a stronger mentality and that’s why I started kickboxing, that was the main reason. Even when I turned pro, I thought fighting professionally was very scary, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this. Obviously, I had no desire or even dreams of fighting in the big shows. But as time went on and as I had more fights, there definitely was a feeling that grew inside of me that wanted to climb higher.”
Fueled by the desire to never lose again following her early setbacks, Mandokoro began making her ascent through the kickboxing scene where she stood out on platforms like Jewels, Deep, NJKF, and Rise. Despite suffering her 18th career defeat in her big RIZIN debut, she performed well enough to where the promotion wanted to see more.
Mandokoro already made history her last time out. She’ll now look to prove herself even further as the first female kickboxer to fight twice in RIZIN. At RIZIN Trigger 1st on Nov. 20, Mandokoro looks to snap a five-fight skid against Miku – this time in a cage.
“In my previous fight, I wasn’t able to perform well and leave a great result,” Mandokoro said. “Deep inside, I thought I would never get the offer again. When I got the offer for this fight, I was very surprised. This only happened because of the people in RIZIN’s corporation and their help, and all the fans’ support. I feel grateful that I’m getting this opportunity and I plan to meet everybody’s expectations who got me on this card. It’s going to be my first event on RIZIN Trigger in the cage, so I’m a little bit nervous about that but I very much look forward to putting together a great fight to please everybody and return the favor for their support.
“This will be the first event for RIZIN Trigger, the new concept, so I have no options – I have to win. For me, I’m going to win this fight and climb up the ladder and see where I can go from there. A win is a must for me in this fight.
“As for the cage, I have no idea what it’s going to be like,” she added. “I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like so I’ve tried not to think about the fact that I’ll be fighting in the cage. So I’m not gonna try to think about it and just fight my fight.”
No matter who Mandokoro faces, she’s typically at a disadvantage due to her size. Because of that, it’s made her the fighter she is today and created a style that is fun to watch for fans new and old.
Understanding the physical attributes she’s forced to work with, Mandokoro is required to adapt perhaps more than most. In her upcoming fight, that won’t change.
“A lot of people point out my height and that I’m short,” she said. “But I do feel like there are ways to show that shorter people can utilize their physical as an advantage. Such as the horizontal movement to generate power in their punches. So I think that is something that I want to show every time that I fight. That I can generate power even though I’m short.
“I’ve seen some of her videos but it seems like she likes to use her kicks, she’s got good kicks. I think that’s what I need to look out for. Overall, I need to leave results in this fight. There’s only one thing I’m gonna do and that’s press forward and be aggressive. It seems like Miku has a strong heart as well so that’s somewhere I’m planning on not losing.”
Momoka Mandokoro is working to blaze a trail for her fellow women in kickboxing. In doing so, she finds the unique opportunity of getting to participate in these innovations like RIZIN Trigger. Additionally, she’ll get to compete alongside her cousin, Jin, who fights one fight after her.
Although kickboxing is what the Mandokoro’s are most known for and their best at, RIZIN is predominantly an MMA promotion. In Momoka’s case at present, longevity on the RIZIN roster would be safest assumed at 108-pounds in the super atomweight MMA division – kickboxing’s future pending, of course.
Momoka is focused on her goals within the striking arts, especially as she begins making waves with multiple new opportunities, but never say never to mixing it all together.
“I’ve always had interest in MMA, I have always said that,” she shared. “But I know it’s not that easy to just transition into MMA. It looks fun and for me, the best part is that you can punch someone who’s on the ground. That’s the most interesting part of MMA that I see.”
BROADENED HORIZIN Ep. 11 ENGLISH AUDIO BELOW:
以下の日本語版 (JAPANESE VERSION BELOW):
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.