Ryusei Ashizawa is not a fan of his next opponent.
RIZIN’s annual New Year’s Eve shows are always combat sports spectacles of the highest degree. This past year, fans were treated to RIZIN 40, which showcased a plethora of top competitors and even a crossover aspect involving some of Bellator’s best.
Midway through the show, K-1 kickboxing staple Ashizawa (24-14-1) made his presence felt by singing his way to the ring and lining up a fight with Koji “Kouzi” Tanaka. The two are now set to wage war in the main event of RIZIN 41 on April 1 in Osaka, Japan. The bad blood is beginning to boil, however, and Ashizawa is admittedly putting his promotional debut in jeopardy with some of his pre-fight antics … such as his running kick during their last face-to-face.
Sorry, it was other way round. Kouzi got his nuts stamped on
I have seen some translations, they really don’t like each other, don’t think it’s just for showpic.twitter.com/ZflGxGXYOQ
— Craig (@ACasualBantam) February 18, 2023
“We obviously had the verbal interaction on New Year’s Eve and clearly I won that round,” Ashizawa told MMA Mania on BROADENED HORIZIN. “He had nothing to say, I fully beat him in the first round and he didn’t admit that I beat his ass in round one on New Year’s Eve. Then he’s out there talking smack about me saying, ‘Oh if I want a chance, I have to go after him.’ It doesn’t make any sense.
“He lost the first verbal fight and he said well, let’s fight. Well, if he wanted to fight me in a street fight, it’s not gonna even happen. He shows up at the RIZIN press conference on his own, says this and that. None of it’s true. He’s just trying to talk his way into becoming the good guy. He’s just a bigass liar.”
Ashizawa is certainly bringing a different level of intensity to RIZIN and the Japanese fight scene in 2023. Sure, the region has traditionally been known for more off-the-wall types of fight scenarios from time to time, but for the most part, altercations outside of the ring or cage are a rarity.
“I was determined for that press conference if he told me to come at him, I was gonna go,” Ashizawa said. “So, some heated exchanges happened, he told me to come at him, so okay. I went over there, I ran and fricken kicked him in the gut. But next time he says that I’m not gonna be so nice. I’m gonna kick him in the face and end his career right there. Maybe, we might not even end up fighting in Osaka because I might just finish it right there when he says come at me once again.
“I’m gonna kick him in the face and I’ll end his career right there. We might not even get that fight. We’ll see.”
Like Ashizawa, Kouzi is no stranger to the K-1 ring and both bantamweights have circled each other for years without ever colliding. In terms of popularity, Kouzi, 33, has become a notable figure inside the RIZIN ring since arriving in 2020.
Ashizawa, 27, has never liked his rival and wanted this fight sooner than now. The bad blood isn’t as simple as wanting to be the better competitor, though. The Minami-Alps, Yamanashi native genuinely just doesn’t like Kouzi as a human being.
“I think it all comes down to personality,” Ashizawa said. “I don’t like him. I think we’re just built differently, we think differently, and frankly, I think he’s a f—. He’s not manly, he changes his opinions left and right every day. He doesn’t follow up on what he says. He pretends like he’s the cool guy, says cool things, but realistically, he’s not cool at all. I think we’re just built differently, I don’t like him as a person, we just don’t get along.”
When it comes to Kouzi, one factor has always stood out and it’s his incredible toughness, which even Ashizawa can admit to. In 50 career fights, Kouzi (31-16-2, 1 no contest) has only been knocked out once. Ultimately, the aggressive and determined Ashizawa knows that’s all about to change.
“I gotta give it to him,” Ashizawa said. “He’s durable, he puts on great fights, and he puts on slugfests. I give that to him, but I just don’t like the fact that he tried to take credit for something that he’s not. He’s not a great fighter. He puts on good fights, but he’s not a good fighter. His level is low, it has not improved, and frankly, all of his fights lack in technique and that’s why they turn out to be all heart and guts. They’re low-quality fights.
“A lot of people are saying he’s durable, he’s never been knocked down, never knocked out. I guarantee you this, this fight, I am going to knock him out and I’m going to retire him. This will be his last fight and you all have to witness that.”
Watch the full episode in the video embedded above or you can listen on Spotify.