Tsuyoshi Kosaka

Photo via Tapology

Tsuyoshi Kosaka on nearly three decades of MMA and Rizin 35 swan song

Tsuyoshi Kosaka tests skills with Mikio Ueda at Rizin 35. This contest goes down at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan on April 17th.

TK has competed in mixed martial arts on and off for close to thirty years. He has clashed with combatants like Maurice Smith, Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock, Fedor Emelianenko, Bas Rutten, Mirko Cro Cop, both of the Nogueira brothers, and Mark Hunt to name just a few.

I spoke with Kosaka ahead of this MMA retirement bout. Excerpts from our conversation are below.

Tsuyoshi Kosaka

Returning after a near ten year hiatus to fight in Rizin’s first fight and now closing out his career with Rizin FF

“So when I jumped back into fighting in Rizin, the initial plan or my wish was to restart my career in Rizin. Then end it again in Rizin. So, that’s how I definitely got back into fighting again. So you know this fight really does mean a lot for me to close it out in Rizin. For me, Pride still lives in my body. It still lives within me. The fact that Rizin is the successor and has the same fire of Pride, that also has a very big meaning. For me to restart my career and end it in Rizin.”

How Tsuyoshi Kosaka feels about his hugely influential work alongside Maurice Smith and Frank Shamrock in The Alliance whereby they really began truly mixing the martial arts

“I’m absolutely proud of being able to be involved at that time in MMA. Because back in ’96, ’97 MMA wasn’t quite as accomplished or established as it is today. MMA was still more of a no-holds-barred, style versus style, and there wasn’t such strategies or techniques to fight in MMA. So looking back, it’s all like memories now. But when I look back, back in the day, we were talking every day about how to get better. How do we utilize our techniques in an MMA fight more efficiently?”

“What are the situations and the possibilities of standing back up from the mount position? Where are strikers looking at when they are fighting a standup fight? All these new bits and pieces of the techniques and strategies that are absolutely normal today didn’t exist back in the day. So looking back at those days talking with Frank and Maurice every day, just only thinking about how to get better. How to become more efficient and how to utilize these techniques, the developing process was very, very fun. I’m very proud to be able to be involved in that time.”

Tsuyoshi Kosaka vs Mikio Ueda

Rizin 35 opponent Mikio Ueda making his MMA debut and Ueda’s well-regarded karate background

“I’ve been getting some advice from Katsunori Kikuno. He’s now independent but he’s fought in UFC and whatnot. But I’ve been seeking some advice on how karate fighters work. Also, I’ve always been studying how full contact karate fighters move and how they create their angles. How they create their distance in order to land their strikes. I’ve always kind of had an idea. I’ve always studied that martial art before. So with all that combination above, I think I’m pretty knowledgeable for his style. I’ll be ready for his style.”

Wanting to mentor the next generation of Japanese heavyweights and Kosaka’s thoughts on that modern crop of talent

“In regards to Shoma Shibisai and Sudario, they’ve got tons of potential. But they’re still not ready for international competition. Fighting overseas and leaving results, I don’t think they’re ready yet. But this is my take on heavyweight fights, is that for heavyweight fights, you have to fight differently. There’s a way to fight a heavyweight fight and there’s a matter of knowing how to fight a heavyweight fight. So I think it’s my duty.”

“It’s my job to be able to teach those tricks, and the secrets on how to fight a heavyweight fight. So once you learn that as a heavyweight fighter, it makes the fight a lot easier. That’s when you start learning how to utilize your body more, how to set the pace, use your body a lot more. So I think Shibisai and Sudario could use their full potential, they just need to learn the tricks on fighting a heavyweight fight.”

Rizin 35

Winning the Pancrase Super Heavyweight Championship and that night he beat Ron Waterman

“That fight definitely stands out in my career. It’s not because it was the actual Pancrase belt. But it was because I was fighting Ron Waterman. He’s a good friend of mine. But he was an active UFC fighter and for me to be able to beat Ron opened up a lot more possibilities and doors for me. Such as maybe I get another run in the UFC or maybe I’ll get a call from Pride.”

“But I knew that heading into that fight, this is a fight that I have to win. I went in there with a great feeling of urgency to win. So being able to overcome Ron with that mentality was something that meant a lot to me. It was more of that feeling than winning the actual belt.”

Parting thoughts for Tsuyoshi Kosaka

“I’ve always felt that I’ve been receiving tons of support from the western fans. I’ll never forget that. For a good example, I fought Mark Hunt back in 2006. I forgot what reason why but I attended the UFC event after that fight. Even though Pride was already bought by Zuffa and it was ran under Zuffa staff, there were so many fans who came up to me and gave me props for the Mark Hunt fight.”

“A lot of the staff from Zuffa, Dana of course. They had such kind words to say about me, my fights, and my career. Even though I’m this Japanese guy at a UFC event. So I’ve always felt that I’ve had strong support from the Western fans, the English-speaking fans. I have been nothing but grateful for that. So I’d like to thank you all.”

author avatar
Dylan Bowker
I've been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I've hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I've been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I've provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I've worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.