2020 acted as a bit of a re-emergence of talent at 125-pounds, particularly in the UFC. Additionally, Bellator partook in some exceptional roster bolstering in free agency. However, continuing to hold down the fort in a manner of her own in a shallow Japanese talent pool has always been one Shizuka Sugiyama.
At Deep 100 Impact on Feb. 21, the promotion’s 20th anniversary, Sugiyama was honored as a participant in the lone female fight on the big 15-fight lineup among several Deep legends. As a near-career long competitor under the banner, it only made sense for her to compete despite her surprise in getting the spot – resulting in a special landmark for herself as she picked up victory No. 20.
“I didn’t know that [I would be the only female fight] but my debut was in Jewels, kind of like Deep Jewels,” Sugiyama told MyMMANews on BROADENED HORIZIN. “So my MMA life is all in Deep, personally, I could celebrate [too]. That was a big opportunity.”
While surprised, but happy, to receive the call from Mr. Saeki about the event, Sugiyama fully expected the outcome she earned.
Needing only two minutes and 39 seconds, “Shiyan” would batter the opposition, Aoi Kuriyama, from a dominant mount en route to a TKO victory. The celebration commenced immediately after as she scaled the cage wall and further planted her flag as a near untouchable force within the division across her nation.
Born in New York City in 1987, Sugiyama’s family quickly moved back to Japan before she got a chance to experience any life in the west. From a young age, she wound up surrounded by many friends entrenched in athletics – so much so that their trainings were focused on the goal of reaching the Olympic level.
Naturally, a desire to be great in a relative manner formed within the eventual MMA star. Finding a Karate dojo to pick up an art of her own, Sugiyama honed the craft to climb her way to the ranks of black belt which carried over into the overall fight game.
At age 21, prior to the Jewels promotion merging with Deep, the Tokyo University graduate began her MMA journey with a first-round rear-naked choke submission victory. Ever since then, the now-34-year-old YouTube sensation has gone to work repping a smile and having a good time.
“Right now, my current state of mind is that I’m very serious about this,” Sugiyama expressed. “But before, I’ve always been in this thinking this will be my last time so might as well have fun. That was my mentality and I think that’s what came off.”
20-6-1 in her career overall, Sugiyama is 9-2 in her last 11 outings dating back to 2014. Her lone losses both came in her only RIZIN bouts opposite rival, Kana Watanabe. Similar to Watanabe, the pair have had trouble finding real competition as of late outside of each other – the global pandemic only made that more difficult.
At the current stage of her career and having only fought in Asia, Sugiyama arguably has nothing left where she’s at. Presumably, someone of her skillset and popularity would make her an ideal candidate to be snatched up by a big promotion in need of 125-pound talent – just like the UFC or Bellator, the latter of which already made their move on Watanabe.
However, Sugiyama has yet to have received any offers or contact from either of the two organizations.
“I would be lying if I said I don’t,” She said of aspirations to perform on a larger scale. “But I honestly don’t see it too realistic for me at the moment.
“I don’t really have a specific person I want to face at the moment. So I think as long as I can keep on fighting, I don’t really care where I fight. But obviously, RIZIN’s a good choice. DEEP has always been approaching me and they’ve kind of been hinting about a belt as well. So I do appreciate that and for me, whatever fight, I want to continue to fight various people and opponents. Wherever I fight, I’ll fight. But meanwhile, all I can do is just train.”
Over the course of these past 13-years, Shizuka Sugiyama has made the absolute best of the situation she’s had to work with. And whether or not she ever makes it to the vaunted promise land of deeper flyweight waters outside of Japan, she’ll always be remembered for doing things her way – not that it’s too late or anything…
Until then, her immediate goals are simple; just win, baby.
“My goal this year is to get a win in RIZIN,” Sugiyama said. “And if DEEP is going to make a title in their division, I would like to go after that. So pretty much winning all my fights is my goal this year.”
BROADENED HORIZIN EP. 7 AUDIO ONLY 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.