"I wake up and go to the gym with a chip on my shoulder, looking for redemption, and it lit a fire under me." - Dustin Kimura
Despite the fact that mixed martial arts is an individual sport once the Octagon door closes, to get to that point takes a team, and when Dustin Kimura found out that one of his teammates, Max Holloway, would be fighting on the same Singapore card this Saturday that he is, his excitement was evident.
“It’s awesome,” said the bantamweight prospect. “All the stress and everything that has to do with the fight, it kind of gets dispersed out and you don’t feel all the focus on you in the gym, which sometimes is a good thing. It’s super fun to know that I’m gonna go up with my training partner, we’re both going to get to go out there and fight, and we both know what it’s like.”
Pros and Cons
That’s the good part. The bad? Well, the flight from Hawaii and the other downsides of being a pro fighter.
“That long flight, cutting weight,” he laughs. “It’s always good when you’ve got someone else suffering with you.”
That’s not even mentioning the extra rigors of training through Christmas and New Year’s Day, but Kimura has made it work, even if he wasn’t able to eat the great food at home over the holidays.
“At first I was not feeling the Christmas spirit at all,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t gonna eat all the good food, and all I thought about was my training. But as it got closer, everything’s feeling good now, so I’m actually enjoying it. I won’t enjoy all that holiday food, but it’s still enjoyable; just not as enjoyable as it could be.”
If you’re getting the impression that the 24-year-old, who faces newcomer Jon Delos Reyes this Saturday, is one of those glass half-full types, that would be accurate. It even travels over to his assessment of his first year in the UFC, which started with a submission win over Chico Camus in February, but ended with a loss by the same method against Mitch Gagnon in September.
“It’s #$#%ing awesome, that’s all I have to say. I feel so blessed to be in the UFC and I’ll never take it for granted. I’m living my dream right now, fighting for the best organization and I want to make a name and stay here for a while.”
Yet even with a 1-1 slate in 2013, Kimura made quite an impression with his aggressive style and eagerness to scrap, something he’s not planning on toning down anytime soon.
“I’m going in there to finish my opponent or get finished,” he said. “I went to a decision one time and I felt like I lost. It wasn’t satisfying for me and I’m just trying to finish every single person that I fight at any time of the fight. I’m trying to go for the knockout or get knocked out. I’m trying to submit him or I get submitted, which happened in the last fight. But you can tell that I go for that pace and that style that people like to see. That’s what I like to see in fights, and that’s just how I fight.”
That’s not to say he didn’t take his first pro defeat in 12 bouts lightly.
“It really is a learning experience,” said Kimura of the Gagnon fight at UFC 165. “I learned the most out of this loss than I learned from all my wins, but to tell you the truth, it sucks. I wake up and go to the gym with a chip on my shoulder, looking for redemption, and it lit a fire under me. I never want to get my ass kicked on national TV ever again.”
You could consider that a warning to Guam’s Delos Reyes, a BJJ blue belt who shares the same all or nothing fight philosophy that Kimura carries. And while Delos Reyes is stepping into the Octagon for the first time this weekend, he’s no stranger to Kimura.
“The funny thing is, I actually saw him fight in person,” said Kimura. “He fought in Hawaii against one of my other training partners who is making his UFC debut on the same card, Russell Doane, so I knew who he was, I’ve seen him fight once, and I knew he fought in a smaller organization I fought in as well, PXC. I’m sure not too many people know who he is, but he’s a tough opponent and the UFC signed him for a reason.”
The Hawaiian Way
Doane, who makes his UFC debut in Singapore against Leandro Issa, submitted Delos Reyes in 2010, and even though three years is a long time in MMA years, you get the impression that Doane has told Kimura that he better not come back to the gym without a win.
“A little bit,” laughs Kimura, who expects to keep representing his state and his team throughout 2014, with the goal remaining the same.
“I’m gonna just keep it rolling,” he said of next year’s outlook. “It’s gonna be real good. I want to get in there more times and really put on good fights. Of course I want to win, but win or lose, I want to go out there and lay it all on the line and I want people to say ‘that was a good fight.’ That’s all I care about.”
It must be a Hawaiian thing.
“I definitely think it is.”
This event will air on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday, January 4. Start your free trial now at ufc.tv/fightpass