Machi Fukuda Eyes Title Fight Following Deep Jewels 41 VictoryAt just 19 years of age, undefeated rising star Machi Fukuda has quickly become one of the top prospects on the Deep Jewels roster. The skilled grappler earned her third professional victory on Sunday night when she defeated Korean challenger You Jeong Kim at Deep Jewels 41 in Tokyo.

Fukuda, who turns 20 on June 3rd, has her sights set on competing for the Deep Jewels Strawweight Championship; a title she hopes will be vacated due to champion Seika Izawa’s commitments in Rizin. Fukuda spoke with about her career plans and goals for the coming year. You first became known for your victory in your last match against Namiko “Hime” Kawabata, who had sprawled well in her fight against Saori Oshima. In that match, Oshima could not get a takedown. How do you feel about your ability to take Kawabata down when you faced her?

Machi Fukuda: I didn’t have that kind of set plan in the first place, but I was confident that I could get a takedown if I went for it. I think it was tough for Oshima because of the size difference, but I didn’t have as much of a difference to overcome. The height difference between you and Kawabata was still noticeable.

Fukuda: There was a height difference, but I always spar with men and I wasn’t afraid of takedowns. You are from Utsunomiya, and you made your pro debut against Mika “Arami” Arai, just like Seika Izawa did. Seika is currently the strongest fighter in the super atomweight division, but what are your thoughts on her?

Fukuda: I feel that she is my senior in my hometown. It is often easier to get takedowns in the lighter weight classes, but as you get closer to the top of the division you need to be able to strike confidently as well. Without striking pressure, there are fewer opportunities to grapple. What kind of striking training have you been doing recently to improve your skills?

Fukuda: I’ve been practising Muay Thai recently, and I’ve been working with Si Woo Park in training. For this [Deep Jewels 41] fight, I was not ready for striking yet, so my strategy this time was to grapple. I would like to strengthen my striking skills and be able to do more of it before the next match. In that sense, Park is a great fighter who has a great sprawl.

Fukuda: She is a tough fighter. I can’t make it competitive against her yet. Seika is also strong because she has won against her. You fought a Korean opponent this time, and would likely be facing more foreign opponents in Rizin. Are there any foreign fighters whom you would like to fight at this point, such as Claire Lopez, who defeated Rena Kubota?

Fukuda: I have no intention of dropping a weight class, so I would like to fight at 52kg [strawweight]. I would like to face a strong 52kg fighter from overseas. Do you have anyone in particular in mind?

Fukuda: I don’t have a name in particular, but I want to get stronger and challenge the world in two or three years. Would you like to be facing opponents like the ones we just discussed in 2-3 years?

Fukuda: No. In about one year from now. Haha. Would you like to fight in an overseas organisation?

Fukuda: I think I can develop my body a little more, and my technique will improve as I get older, so I would like to aim for the UFC in a couple of years at 52kg. There is a new generation of female fighters rising in the women’s divisions who are undefeated as professionals, like yourself. When you competed as an amateur, you had decision defeats against Arisa Matsuda and Momoko Saito. Do you feel that you are already better than them now, and would you like to try to avenge those losses?

Fukuda: Saito was strong, but she was in a higher weight class and so I don’t think I will be able to fight her again. Matsuda is in the same class as me, so I hope I can face her again. I would like to do that. You have been training with Kosuke Umeda and travelling back and forth between Tochigi and other areas. Have you ever discussed the future of your practice environment with Umeda?

Fukuda: I was told that I can go somewhere else when he no longer has anything left to teach me. In the interview before your Deep Jewels 41 fight, you mentioned that you hope that Seika Izawa will vacate her Deep Jewels strawweight title. Do you feel that a championship fight for the vacant belt is in your career path and, if so, whom would you like to face?

Fukuda: I think that Arisa Matsuda’s name would probably come up. You became a fighter because you were a fan of mixed martial arts first. Was there anyone in particular that you admired?

Fukuda: I was a big Rizin fan, so I like all of the fighters in Rizin, but I liked Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto the best. Is there any message that you would like to send to overseas fans?

Fukuda: I think I am small in height and build compared to people overseas, but I want to improve my skills and become someone who can show the world that Japanese fighters are strong.