Emi Fujino is a veteran who has already faced most of the top female fighters in Japan. She debuted in the now defunct “Smack Girl” in 2004, and went on an 8-fight winning streak before being stopped by fellow veteran Megumi Yabushita in GMC Demolition. “The Kamikaze Angel” has since had a mixture of success. She lost by decision to the legendary Megumi Fujii in Sengoku Raiden Championship in 2010, which may have been the highest level stage a female can fight in Japan to date. Now with a record of 13-7, she’s been dreaming of the day when she can showcase her skills overseas. That time has finally come. At Word Series of Fighting on June 21st, she will face Jessica Aguilar for the 115 lb title in the Hard Rock Casino, Las Vegas.
“It has always been my dream to fight overseas, so I’m really happy I can,” she told us at MMASucka.com. “I’m looking forward to being able to compete in front of lots of people in such a big promotion like WSOF.”
In addition to MMA, Fujino has also done pro-wrestling matches. She has fought in the professional kickboxing “J-Girls” League, and Shootboxing tournaments, which is kickboxing with hip throws and standing submissions.
“I like a flashy style of fighting that will excite the audience,” she commented. Regarding her next opponent, she said, “I know she is a well-rounded fighter, strong in every aspect. Number one in the 115 lb division !”
Fujino first started training MMA in order to diet, and fell in love with the sport after that.
Female MMA fighters have come a long way over the years, and are more respected now. “Women’s MMA is still minor in Japan,” she said. Despite Fujino’s long career and her fights being broadcast on various networks, channels that do show female MMA matches like “Samurai TV” or “Sky Perfect” require a special cable or satellite subscription to view. “People have come up to me at venues, but I’m not recognized anywhere else (like on the street),” Fujino said. “Usually people I meet for the first time are very surprised to find out I’m a fighter.”
The old “Smack Girl” rules prohibited strikes to the face while on the ground, no elbows, and a 30-second ground time limit before being stood up. “Recently, restrictive rules have decreased and Women’s MMA is gaining popularity,” Fujino said. “It’s hard, though, because there are so few female fighters, there are also less females to train with. However, that makes more chances for each fighter to fight.”
Emi belongs to Wajitsu Keishukai GODS gym, the very first gym she started at. When asked to compare her training methods of the past to now, she replied, “Rather than just ‘going to practice,’ I consult my coaches and training partners who understand me very well, and try and pin-point what needs to be worked on and improve. I do enjoy physical training the most.”
She commented on the evolution of MMA as having become more firmly established in the world of sports. “Compared to the past, I think that fewer and fewer people have the desire to become pro MMA fighters,” she said. “It’s not easy to become pro, but if people work hard and struggle, they can do it.”
Fujino currently works in a lawyer’s office to support herself. “In Japan, especially as a woman, I wouldn’t be able to support myself only by fighting. Maybe if I became a martial arts instructor, I might be able to support myself with MMA.”
Her advice to other females in Japan wanting to fight pro?
“Believe in yourself and continue onwards,” Fujino encouraged. “The most important thing is to keep going.”
Watch June 21st, 10 PM ET/ 7 PM PT on NBC sports, or live at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Casino and Hotel.