Asian MMA

“The Stage of my Dreams” Masanori Kanehara takes on Alex Caceres at UFC Japan

(Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

Masanori Kanehara is a finisher. With a record of 23-11-5 (8 KO, 9 SUB) the majority of his fights don’t make it to the judges scorecards. He will be taking on Alex Caceres at UFC Fight Night 52, in the Saitama Super Arena on September 20th.

With eyes on fighting in the UFC for a few years he dropped weight classes from 145-pounds to 135-pounds, which he feels helped him be more successful in 2012 and 2013. His goals: beat everybody in the UFC — Caceres is first in line.

“The Stage of my Dreams” Masanori Kanehara takes on Alex Caceres at UFC Japan

“This next fight is the biggest challenge in my life!” he stated. “The UFC is the stage of my dreams!”

Alex Caceres was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 and since 2011 has gone 5-4 in the Octagon. “I think Caceres is a very strong fighter,” Kanehara commented. “I think it’ll be a tough fight.”

A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Kanehara was the first to hold the Featherweight Sengoku Championship belt, as well as winning the 2009 Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix Championship tournament in Japan. Also on his resume is ZST Swat tournament winner. He holds victories over fighters such as UFC Vet Michihiro Omigawa, UFC/K-1 vet Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, “The Korean Zombie “ Chang Sung Jung, and Joe Pearson.

“For a number of years now, people have been asking me, ‘So when are you gonna fight in the UFC?’ It was seriously rough on me. ‘Shut up, I don’t know!’ I wanted to say. It was so frustrating. I believed it was my fault, so I just threw myself into training day after day. Then, when I got the call from my manager in the States offering me the fight, it was early morning because of the time difference, so I was jolted awake. It came so suddenly that I was shocked, but thrilled!”

At thirty-one-years-old, Kanehara began his training MMA when he was sixteen, debuting professionally eleven years ago. “I started MMA because there was a gym nearby and it looked like fun. When I first started MMA, it was the Golden Age and PRIDE was being aired on TV. I set that as my goal. That goal has been changed from PRIDE to the UFC!”

Does he feel the general population’s interest in MMA has declined over the years in Japan?

“It can’t be helped since it’s not on TV anymore. However, I still feel a lot of support from fans, so I personally don’t notice such a huge lack of interest,” he said.
More and more pro fighters from the Golden Age are opening their own gyms, so it appears that the number of gyms have actually been increasing in Japan.

Kanehara also recently started his own business – the gym “Alpha: Reversal Gym Tachikawa” in Tokyo, but he himself trains in various places. “My gym is where my heart lives,” he said. “My coach is the same coach who has been watching over me from long ago. Now, a coach from Chicago named “Izzi”is helping me. My training partners are top class fighters like UFC fighters Takeya Mizugaki and Michinori Tanaka.” He spent a few weeks of his camp in Chicago to help prepare for his UFC debut.

Kanehara lives and breathes the fighter life-style, supporting himself through fighting and his new gym. In his free-time, he still enjoys physical activity. “I like to play golf, baseball, and also go out with my friends. My favorite food is sushi!”

He feels like it’s do or die. “I’m going to fight befitting a Japanese and KO my opponent. I want to stay in the UFC for a long time…eventually wrap a belt around my waist! With my win in the UFC, I’m going to repay the favor to the people who all supported me during the tough times. Thank you for your support!”

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