Although much of the hype surrounding next week’s ProElite event in Hawaii revolves around the anticipated fight between Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove and Ikuhisa “The PUNK” Minowa, there is much more going on in the undercard to make next Saturday’s event a continued success for ProElite.
While MMA has its share of “free agents,” you can consider Steven “the Soul Samurai” Saito one of the most sought after freelance fighters in Hawaii. Next Saturday, the “Soul Samurai” takes a break from coaching and makes his return to the cage after a 10 month long hiatus, taking on Big Island striker Toby “2Quick” Misech in the 145 pound division on the ProElite undercard.
The “Soul Samurai” (3-2), most recently lost to Will Shutt via split decision at X-1 Champions 3 last March, is hungry to make his return to the cage and add another “W” to his record. He is a well-rounded fighter with solid striking and ground skills, finishing two of his fights by TKO (punches) and by submission (rear naked choke). This is a guy who is too busy for any online school these days.
MMASucka caught up with the “Soul Samurai” in the last leg of his fight camp for an interview:
Tell us about your upcoming ProElite fight and how you are preparing for your opponent.
First of all thank you for this interview opportunity. You guys are working hard to get us fighters exposure and that is so important for us local fighters and the sport in general.
As far as ProElite, I gotta thank T.Jay for this opportunity and Rich Chou for the match making and doing all the background stuff! These guys work so hard to create a stage for us fighters to live our dream. People gotta understand that there is no fight without everyone doing their part.
Anyway, I’m excited for this fight. I’m fighting Tony Misech from Hilo. Supposedly he is the number one 145 pounder coming out of the amateur ranks. The plan is to finish him quickly and efficiently. That is always the plan. I’ve made some big changes since my last fight and most of them have to deal with my mental state and my relationships with my coaches, training partners, and family. The mentality behind fighting really is almost everything. When all the physical training has been done, the mind creates what happens. As far as my teammates, sometimes in this sport we can see each other and without thinking we begin to treat them as equipment rather than people and sometimes you need to stop that and remember they are human beings. They are your friends. Your family. So you really need to be careful to treat them with not only respect but care as well. It is important for me that we all work as a team so that the team effort shines more than my individual effort.
Your last fight was almost a year ago and you lost by split decision. Are you doing anything differently with your fight camp this time around?
Yeah, My career so far has been a mixed bag. Ups and downs and a lot of time in between fights. That is why I consider this fight with Toby the beginning. A new start. My last fight was tough. Will Shutt caught me in a nasty knee bar, heel hook, and an armbar. I consider jiu-jitsu a stregnth of mine and was surprised that I got caught so much. So I’ve been working more transitions between striking and submissions.
As far as what I’m doing differently, I have been told I had way too much on my plate. I work a full time security job, train full time, have several part-time coaching jobs, landscaping, running my own school, having a girlfriend, and taking care of my family. This time around I stopped teaching my classes 3 months out to focus on my training. That helped greatly to give me sometime to re-evaluate my methods and fix the holes in my game. These holes were primarily mental, phillisophical, and spritual. It took a lot to sort out and overcome these challenges so I am eager to see what the results will bring.
I’m sure most of your opponents can say that you are one of the most respectful fighters they have come across. Explain your philosophy about fighting and what keeps you so humble.
My friend Travis always talks about how societies where guns are worn on their belts, everyone is a lot more courteous. This is sort of how I view it as well. We all are trained fighters, professionals, and public figures. There is no reason for disrespect. In ancient Japan, warriors were required to learn codes of conduct, courtesy, and the arts because they knew that the act of killing takes a toll on the human soul. They knew that if other aspects in the human soul are not cultuvated, warriors can quickly become sick, sadistic, and unable to live in society apart from war. Even though MMA is a sport, it still comes from the martial arts which teaches how to kill uour oponent if necessary. I had to come to grips with what this is in order to continue as a practicing martial artist. We must understand what it means to take a life, when to be ruthless, and when to show mercy. This is what weilding power consists of…these many moral decisions. Every person who studies martial arts in my opinion needs to rectify this with their own values. Otherwise society suffers.
This has been a point of inner conflict at times for me. Here are some questions that I ask myself: “Is there a need for warriors now days? Or does the answer lie in passivism much like what the Dalai Lama teaches?”
Sometimes I wonder if the path I have chosen and the one I teach my students, is really the right path. Teaching carries tremendous responsibility and indefinitley take it seriously and can be a weight on my shoulders. It is a weight I gladly bear though because I love teaching and love learning as well. If I did not ask myself these difficult questions then I’d be unworthy to be a teacher.
Furthermore, the acting of being humble or the acting of being arrogant is primarily a exterior show. To me, posturing and acting tough or mean or even acting nice ae all antics that can be used to Get into the head of your opponent. However, this only works against weak minded fighters. I find it a waste of energy and just not me. Look, the same result is going to occur no matter how nice or how mean you are to me outside or inside the ring. The fact is I’m going to finish you as effieciently and quickly as possible then I can go back to living and training. And I know you are goin try to do the same. That is why for me, I dont waste my energy acting like I need to be disrespectful. When we face off at the weigh ins, they know my intention and I know theirs.
What are your plans for the future? What would you like to accomplish and what can your fans expect from you in the next 6-12 months?
I plan to win all my 6 fights this year in dominant fashion. Everything else is a secret.
Any last words?
Live your dream never ever give up always believe in your dream and take action. Greatness is within you. Believe it!!
Humble by nature outside of the ring, you can be sure that the Soul Samurai will bring out the beast the moment he sets foot in the ProElite cage next Saturday night. Be sure to tune into HD Net to catch all of the action. The undercard fights may be streaming live online, so check out www.ProElite.com for more information.