Mei Yamaguchi discusses the ONE Championship split with RIZIN and shares a fight she wishes she could have gotten back.
The six-year tenure of Mei Yamaguchi with ONE Championship has ended.
Japan’s Yamaguchi was prepared to return home following a draw in a grappling contest at ONE: X in March 2022 against Danielle Kelly. Since leaving the organisation after 36 fights, the 40-year-old has joined the RIZIN Fighting Federation squad. On April 30, 2023, she will make her RIZIN Landmark 5 debut against Kanna Asakura, the Atomweight division’s longtime number-one contender.
Talking to MMA Mania, Yamaguchi says, “I was always looking for a chance to fight for RIZIN, but if I have a contract with ONE Championship I cannot. Thinking about my career, I really wanted to finish fighting in Japan. So, I talked to ONE Championship and they showed a lot of respect for what I think. I asked for my termination and they allowed that. There was a lot of understanding. It was an honor to be in those big events. It was pretty fun fighting around Asia. In ONE Championship, I am fighting in the same promotion, but if you go to a different country a small thing is so different because of the cultural background.”
Yamaguchi (21-14-1) has faced pretty much every legend and trailblazer conceivable while weighing 115 pounds or less. “
Yamaguchi made her professional debut in November 2007 and fought primarily in Japan before making her international debut in 2014. She signed with the ONE Championship promotion in 2015 and had been with them ever since.
Yamaguchi has had notable fights with some of the top female fighters in the Atomweight division, including Angela Lee, Gina Iniong, Istela Nunes, and Jenny Huang. Her most significant fight to date was her title shot against Angela Lee at ONE Championship: Ascent to Power in 2016, where she lost via unanimous decision.
Yamaguchi’s fighting style is well-rounded, and she is known for her excellent grappling skills and striking ability. She has won 9 fights by submission, 7 fights by KO/TKO, and 6 fights by decision.
Outside of MMA, Yamaguchi is also a judo black belt and has competed in submission grappling tournaments. She is a popular figure in the MMA community and is admired for her work ethic and sportsmanship.
She is aware that she is now in the final stages of her career with RIZIN.
Yamaguchi said, “I don’t know, one or two years [left], but I really want to show everything in RIZIN. I want all the fans — especially in Japan, especially at my age — to give a lot of power to those people in my career.”
When asked which fight she hoped she could go back and win, she replied, “Angela Lee the second time. That’s the only fight that I really thought I won.”
Yamaguchi’s battle against Asakura will be her first fight under 115 pounds since her final Deep Jewels match in 2015. The unstoppable veteran will try to continue her trend of never being stopped when she enters the RIZIN cage and end her only three-fight losing skid.
“I think it’s a very good matchup. Because Kanna needs to show what she’s learned from RIZIN, what she’s done in her career, and I have to show what I’ve done outside Japan. That’s what everyone wants to see. So, it’s pretty exciting. I trained with her once, so I kind of understand how it feels [against her]. It’s fun,” Yamaguchi concluded.