Following a disappointingly short stay in Bellator in 2012, former Shooto champion Masakatsu Ueda returned with a vengeance to the ONE FC promotion, winning their recent Bantamweight Grand Prix and earning a title shot in the process.
Looking back over the past year and a half, Ueda couldn’t be more pleased with where he’s ended up.
“It was very exciting to continue to earn one win after another, with the promise of a title opportunity at the end of the tournament,” said Ueda. “I am very happy with my performance and feel like I have worked extra hard to earn this title shot.”
When Ueda first started out on his ONE FC journey in 2012, the bantamweight title was in the hands of Soo Chul Kim, but has since passed to former DREAM champion Bibiano Fernandes.
Ueda (18-2-2) has kept a close eye on the title and feels he’s ready to face Fernandes (15-3) on May 2 in Manila, Philippines, after months of observation.
“I have watched as Bibiano Fernandes has become champion,” said Ueda. “Since he won in October, I have a long time to really focus on (him) and I feel that every aspect of my skills are better than (his).
“He is one of the greatest bantamweights in Asian MMA history. I knew our paths would cross eventually and I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I am very confident that I can win this even though I am the underdog and bring the title back to Japan.”
Though this fight could very well be the biggest of his career, Ueda has tried to prepare for it as he would any other fight.
“I try to focus my attention like it is another fight,” he said. “I want to stay focused on winning the fight and not think about the repercussions and implications of the main event.”
For Ueda, defeating Fernandes would not only give him the ONE FC title, but it would validate his years of hard work to get back to the top of the 135-pound weight class.
“It would mean my career choice is justified,” Ueda told MMAWeekly.com. “I want to keep working hard and keep the title.
“Thank you to my team, my sponsors, ONE FC for the opportunity. Very humbled by this interview and want to put on a good show on May 2.”