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PhotoCred: RIZIN FF

Ulka Sasaki targets RIZIN 145-pound elite, ‘I can beat any of those four’

How former UFC flyweight Ulka Sasaki ever made the 125-pound limit during his time with the promotion becomes more of a mystery with each fight.

After a nine-bout run in the UFC from 2014 to 2018, the Numazu, Shizuoka native went back up to 135-pounds when joining RIZIN FF. Sasaki’s last time out saw him return from a nasty broken jaw a year prior to score a unanimous judges’ call against Kenta Takizawa. Now, the Lazy God apparel founder wants to make another change by going back to his roots in the division he began his career in.

“I’m confident I’m going to fight at featherweight in September,” Sasaki told MyMMANews on BROADENED HORIZIN. “In terms of the opponent, those four fighters who fought in the Tokyo Dome, Kleber Koike, Mikuru Asakura, Yutaka Saito, and [Vugar] Karimov, all those four guys, I’m fine with any of those four. I’m feeling very confident about fighting in this division and I feel I can beat any of those four.”

RIZIN 28 in the Tokyo Dome played host to a bit of an unofficial featherweight tournament between the four men Sasaki mentions. Current champion Yutaka Saito picked up a split decision nod over Vugar Karamov in a non-title affair while Kleber Koike put Mikuru Asakura to sleep in the main event with a triangle choke submission in the second round.

While that wasn’t a legitimate tournament, there was the start of a Grand Prix in the division below, however.

RIZIN 28 also acted as the launch of the 16-man bantamweight tournament with four opening-round matchups. Upon the reveal of the competitors, it was surprising for some to see the glaring omission of the 33-fight vet in Sasaki.

“The only reason is actually because of the weight,” Sasaki said of his absence from the Grand Prix. “As I discussed with my coaches, I can make it to 135-pounds maybe twice a year but I need a substantial [amount of] time to get that done. I’d need to cut weight in June, September, December, it’s just not physically possible and not well for the body. So my decision was to pass on the Grand Prix.”

When it comes to Sasaki’s thoughts on the tournament, he struggles to see anyone stopping his friend and teammate, the surging 24-year old Naoki Inoue.

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