When we think of female MMA stars in Japan, Megumi Fujii immediately comes to mind, but one name that must not be overlooked is DEEP Women’s Lightweight Champion Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto, who announced her impending retirement in late February.
With a record of 23-4-0 and 14 submissions to her credit, Miku’s skill inside the ring was undeniable, but she wasn’t always inclined to compete in MMA. Discussing topics including her storied career and future plans, Miku speaks with MMARising.com in this exclusive English interview.
Miku debuted in mixed martial arts at GCM’s “Cross Section” in 2004 and later competed in a variety of Japanese promotions including G-Shooto, MARS, Smackgirl and DEEP. Her crowning moment came in 2007 when she defeated Hisae Watanabe to become DEEP Women’s Lightweight Champion at 106 pounds. Miku finished her career on a 12-fight winning streak dating back to 2006 and won her final fight against veteran striker “Windy” Tomomi Sunaba at DEEP: 44th Impact on October 10, 2009.
MMARising.com: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview, Miku. To start off, when did you first begin training for MMA and what sparked your interest in the sport? Did you compete in other sports as a child?
Miku Matsumoto: I first started MMA to kill time. After I got back from studying overseas, I planned to do a part-time job for one year to save money, so I started MMA in my free time. As a kid, I was never really into sports. If anything, I liked learning the piano and penmanship.
MMARising.com: Did you always want to become a pro fighter?
Miku: No, I had no idea.
MMARising.com: Other than MMA, what are your other hobbies or interests?
Miku: I enjoy cooking, making sweets and I’ve recently been getting into quilting.
MMARising.com: What’s the most fun thing about training and competing in MMA?
Miku: The most fun thing about MMA is seeing something I’ve practised or trained come out later on in training or in a fight. Also, forming bonds with those I train with.
MMARising.com: Do you have a day job as well?
Miku: No, I don’t.
MMARising.com: Fans are aware that you recently announced your plans to retire from MMA and many will be sad to see you go, as you are one of the top female fighters in the sport. How long have you been thinking about retiring?
Miku: I started seriously considering retiring around the end of last year.
A victorious Miku following final pro fight. (Photo Credit: gbring.com)
MMARising.com: You have supporters all over the world and some were shocked and worried when they heard that you would be retiring. Now that some time has passed since your announcement, how are you feeling and what has the reaction been like from fans and other fighters?
Miku: After I announced my retirement, I received tons of messages from fans and those around me. When I saw those, I realised that I had more supporters than I had thought and I felt really thankful. I’m glad that I did what I did.
MMARising.com: Presently, you are the holder of the DEEP Women’s Lightweight Championship at 106 pounds, which is arguably the most prestigious women’s title in Japan and one of the most prestigious in the entire world. How much did your life change when you became the champion in 2007?
Miku: It felt like just about everything changed for me. Firstly, it felt like those around me finally started to recognise my dedication. When I became the champion, I felt the responsibility and significance of such a position, and felt that I grew a lot personally from such awareness.
MMARising.com: You won the title by defeating Hisae Watanabe at DEEP: 31st Impact in one of the best fights in DEEP’s history and one of the most impressive performances of your career. What went through your mind when you were announced as the winner?
Miku: At the time, I didn’t really think that the championship was such a huge deal.
Miku following DEEP title victory in 2007. (Photo Credit: gbring.com)
MMARising.com: Even more impressively, you avenged all four of your MMA losses and showed tremendous improvement as your career progressed. What do you feel was the biggest key to your success?
Miku: It was confidence, believing in myself and training with that belief.
MMARising.com: Some promotions in Japan use modified rules for women’s fights that restrict striking to the face when both fighters are on the ground. Did you like these rules or did you prefer to compete under rules that were more similar to men’s bouts?
Miku: I was most interested in rules with ground and pound.
MMARising.com: Which fight or fighter made the biggest impression on you?
Miku: My [second] fight with Lisa Ward in 2009.
MMARising.com: Is there an added pressure for female fighters to look or act a certain way in Japan or did you feel that your choice to be a professional fighter was respected by those around you?
Miku: I didn’t feel any pressure, but I was always conscientious. I’m standing before the audience as a professional, so I felt like – especially since I’m a woman – I have to be aware of my image. Maybe make my fight clothes a little flashy. Rather than just suiting a fighter, clothes are meant to show off an attractive athletic body, right?
MMARising.com: DEEP sometimes brought in foreign fighters for you to face, such as Carina Damm from Brazil, Seo Hee Ham from South Korea and both Lisa Ward and Nicdali Calanoc from the United States. What do you feel is the biggest difference between Japanese fighters and foreign fighters?
Miku: Maybe power.
MMARising.com: If you had had an opportunity to compete in North America, would this have been of interest to you and, if so, which opponents would you have liked to have faced?
Miku: I would have been interested, but it’s not like I knew any specific fighters. My interest would have been in fighting strong opponents.
MMARising.com: Would you like to remain involved in MMA as a trainer for other fighters or do you plan to focus exclusively on your life outside of the sport?
Miku: For now, I’m going to step away from MMA.
MMARising.com: Looking ahead, what would you like to accomplish outside of MMA? What are your immediate goals now that you will be leaving the sport?
Miku: I want to work just taking care of the house, like a housewife!
MMARising.com: Do you have any final thoughts or comments that you would like to share with your fans and supporters from around the world?
Miku: Thank you so very, very much for all of the support!!
MMARising.com sincerely thanks Miku for her time for this interview. We look forward to her final exhibition bout with good friend Megumi Fujii at DEEP: 47th Impact on April 17th.
This interview was translated in its entirety by Roxanne Modafferi.