Exclusive Pre-Fight Jewels Interview With Shizuka SugiyamaAt age five, Shizuka Sugiyama moved from her home in New York City to a new world in Japan. At 18, she earned a black belt in karate in just three months. Now 23, she is one of the best-known fighters in Jewels and faces Mongolia’s Esui in a featured bout at Jewels: “Eleventh Ring” on Friday.

A quiet individual, Sugiyama feels that a stronger belief in herself and her abilities inside the ring is key to becoming a better fighter and, someday, possibly a champion. As she prepares for an unorthodox opponent in Esui, Sugiyama speaks with in this pre-fight interview.


Note: This interview was conducted entirely in English.


Asked about her opponent, Esui, a native of Mongolia who made her pro MMA debut for Jewels in July, Sugiyama is aware of her opponent’s style and feels that she has a strategy to defeat her.

“I know that she is a pro wrestler and has good judo throws, and I think that she is good on the ground,” Sugiyama says. “I think I need to land my straight punches. I need to use my striking,” she adds, referencing an area of her game that she has worked hard on.

While she has a tough fight ahead of her against an opponent with a unique skill set, Sugiyama has goals for her future in MMA and hopes that a win on Friday will be a step towards someday competing for a title. “I need to do more heavy training to become stronger and gain more confidence,” she says, before adding that a belief in herself is something that she often struggles with.

Sugiyama competed in the 2009 Jewels Rough Stone Grand Prix at 60kg and was seen as an early favourite to win, but she was defeated by German prospect Alexandra Sanchez. Asked whether she feels that she could win a Rough Stone tournament in 2011, Sugiyama’s answer is a shy one.

“Yes, I hope so,” she says with a smile and a laugh.

When told that she has supporters in North America and other areas of the world, a humble Sugiyama replies with a surprised, “I do? How do they watch my fights? Online?” YouTube, I explain, which elicits another big smile as she seems puzzled at the thought of having fans around the world.

And although she may not be aware of her growing fanbase outside of Japan, Sugiyama would like to compete overseas. “If I had an opportunity, I would, yes.”

Sugiyama concludes the interview by speaking of her transition from the United States to Japan as a child. Adapting to Japanese culture and the language was okay, but retaining her grasp of her first language is difficult. “I can’t speak English anymore,” she says with a laugh, though her English is certainly much better than my Japanese.

Sugiyama will face Esui in a 59kg matchup at Jewels: “Eleventh Ring” on Friday. The fight will be featured prominently as one of the headlining bouts of the evening. thanks her for her time for this pre-fight interview.


  1. Sugiyama! come to fight and train in Brazil!!!! Please!