Warrior Spirit - Enson Inoue Interview
Interview by Pooch 21 June 2001
Pooch : First off I would like to thank you Enson for granting this interview with www.SFUK.net it is a pleasure to interview a fighter of your calibre. Could you tell me a little about your childhood and what it was like growing up in Hawaii?
Enson Inoue : Growing up in Hawaii was fun until I got into Intermidiate School, where kids from surrounding districts all combine into one school. Being Japanese I was alot smaller than the Caucasions, Hawaiians, Samoans,etc. it was almost like a fight to survive.
Pooch : At what age did you start training in martial arts and who did you train under?
Enson Inoue :I began training Martial Arts when I was 16 years old. I wa doing TaeKwonDo/Hapkido under Master Hong. However I started seriously training in the Martial Arts when I was 21 years old doing Gracie Jiu- Jitsu under Relson Gracie.
Pooch : Does Hawaii have it's own indigenous Martial Art and if so did you have any contact with it?
Enson Inoue :If Hawaii has its own Martial Art, I don't know about it.
Pooch : When did you have your first MMA fight?
Enson Inoue :My MMA debut was in Japan in January 1995.
Pooch : How did you get discovered by the Shooto organisation?
Enson Inoue :I actually called them, went down and sparred with one of their top fighters and they asked me to skip Amatuers and go directly to the pros.
Pooch : Where did you train in Japan and how difficult is it for a "Gaijin" to train in Japan?
Enson Inoue :I trained at the Shooto gym I now own and it is not difficult at all to train being a foreigner. Doing business or living in Japan is where the nightmare begins.
Pooch : Could you tell us about how you became the Shooto heavyweight champion and how long did you keep that position?
Enson Inoue :I beat Joe Estez in a title match by referee stoppage (mount punch) and I kept that title for 2 years.
Pooch : On May 20th 1997 you entered the middleweight division at UFC 13, you made quick work of wrestling legend Royce Alger beating him with an armbar at 1.36, unfortunately you were injured and could not continue to the finals, could you tell me about the fight and the injury and why you never returned to the UFC?
Enson Inoue :The fight was perfect. A classic armbar from the guard position. I never did and don't think I ever will break an arm like I broke Algers arm that night. Unfortunately, I must have got hit with a good shot because after the fight I blew my nose and my right eye puffed up like a ballon. The doctors took one look at me and refused to let me continue. The reason why I never returned to the UFC was because they never asked me to fight. If they did, I would have loved to be there.
Japan Vale Tudo 98 - armbar on Randy Couture
Pooch : During your stay with the Shooto organisation you had probably two of the best fights in MMA history both of which had two different outcomes. The first was at Vale Tudo Japan 97 against Frank Shamrock, this was with out a doubt the best fight of 1997. The other was at Vale Tudo Japan 98 in which you scored a huge victory over the current UFC heavyweight champion Randy Coture who you beat by armbar at 1.39 into the match, could you tell us about these fight's and how you felt after you match with Randy?
Enson Inoue :These where, like you said two of the biggest fights in my career. Franks fight was awesome, we were both in great shape and trying to kill each other. Unfortunately, Frank was the better man that night and caught me with a right cross and a knee I don't even remember. The fight with Frank taught me a lot and made me a better fighter. Randy's match was so fast and sudden. Randy made a mistake and I got lucky. It felt great because at that time, Randy was the UFC Champion and undefeated in MMA.
Pooch : Could you give us an insight as to how you prepare for these type of matches, what sort of training you do, what diet do you keep to?
Enson Inoue :I don't do anything special. I just train hard and try to stay away from the sweets that I love so much.
Enson and Mario Sperry at ADCC
Pooch : In 1999 you were to fight Mario Sperry in a superfight at the 1999 ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with ADCC and Sheik Tahnoon, also could you give us your views on Mario and how the fight went?
Enson Inoue :I probably got the Super fight with Mario Sperry only because I beat Randy Couture. Mario is an awesome submission fighter and he controled me for the whole match. I was somewhat flattered that he wanted to play it safe with me rather than mixing it with me.
Pooch : In 2000 you retired from Shooto and relinquished your heavyweight title, reports on the Internet said that a situation occurred between yourself and a member of the Japanese press and you resigned from Shooto because of it, would you like to comment on this incident or set the record straight about what happened?
Enson Inoue :I gave a reporter from a gossip type of magazine what he deserved. He was trying to take photos of me and a famous Japanese actress while we attended a Rings event. The story he was trying to write could have hindered the actresses career. I resigned from Shooto because they showed me 0% support. In fact they threw me out to the lions just to save their own face.
Pooch : You signed a contract with Pride in 1999 could you tell us how you were approached by Pride?
Enson Inoue :They saw in a magazine that I wanted to fight Mark Kerr and they gave me a offer to fight Mark.
Pooch : Your first match for Pride was on 29th April 1999 on the Pride 5 show, you beat Soichi Nishida very quickly, you then had your next fight at Pride 7 against Tuli Kulihaapai who you also despatched of very quickly. Then on 30th January 2000 you faced you first major challenge in Pride, the No.1 ranked heavyweight fighter in the world at that time Mark Kerr, this fight was to take place in the first round of the Pride Grand Prix 2000, How did you feel stepping in the ring with Kerr, what strategy did you have and how did you feel that the fight went for you?
Enson Inoue :I wanted to stand toe to toe with Mark and have a KO finish but Mark had a better strategy and beat me being smarter and major technical.
Enson trades with Igor
Pooch : For Your next fight Pride had pitted you up against probably the most feared striker in MMA Igor Vovchanchin. Many thought that you were going to try and out grapple Vovchanchyn but instead you shocked the world by going toe to toe with the Russian. Could you please tell us about this fight and could you tell the MMA fans what it is like to be hit by Vovchanchyn?
Enson Inoue :I felt that it was such a great opportunity to fight the best striker in MMA so I thought it would be awesome to go toe to toe with him, and it was. Being hit by him is like being hit by a truck. Hats off to Igor for beating the living daylights out of me.
Pooch : You are well known for your aggressive style which you showed in your fight against Igor. Do you go through any pre-fight ritual to get yourself psyched up or can you just turn your aggression on at will?
Enson Inoue :My aggression is natural, I don't need to get psyched up. In fact, I try more to relax and calm down.
Pooch : Do you under go any special conditioning specifically conditioning to pain from strikes - A friend of mine has seen photo spreads in Gong Katatougi (Japanese. MMA Mag) of you getting leathered with one of those Kendo swords, is this something you regularly do?
Enson Inoue :Nothing special, just hardcore Japanese training.
Pooch : Your final match for Pride was on 23rd December 2000 at the Pride 12 show, your opponent was Heath Herring who had just upset Tom Erikson at a previous event. During the match Herring caught you in a key lock that looked pretty painful, after refusing to tap Herring decided to use his knee's. One knee hit you in the side of the head and another in the side of your body. Although you didn't seem to be in trouble the ref decided to end the match, looking back what are your thoughts on this match?
Enson Inoue :Heath was the better man that night but the fight was IMO stopped too soon. The refree made his decision and that's that. C'est la vite!
Pooch : Straight after this match you addressed the crowd and told them that this would be your last MMA match and that you were retiring, could you let the MMA fans know what was behind your decision to leave the fight game?
Enson Inoue :I do not feel that I can give 100% in the ring anymore. My mind is in other places like my job and I feel that for my future, it would be more productive to concentrate more on my job. If my job get more stable and the fire comes back. I'll be back.
Pooch : Could you let us know what you have been doing since your retirement, I believe you have opened a new gym in Japan?
Enson Inoue :Yes, I've been very busy running my gyms (3). Also TV, magazines, and promotions got my hands full.
Pooch : Do you have any upcoming fighters that we should keep an eye out for?
Enson Inoue :Yes Tetsuji Kato and Norifumi Yamamoto.
Pooch : How do you prepare your students for a fight, what kind of training do you get them to do?
Enson Inoue : My students do the same kind I training I did. You can bet that fighters coming from my gym is definitely mentally ready.
Pooch : How has MMA evolved in your homeland of Hawaii, I hear there are a number of big schools there now including your brother Egan's?
Enson Inoue : MMA has effected Hawaii in a small but good way. More dojos are opening up and it give the young teenagers some where to release their energy. Hopefully keeping them off the streets and out of trouble.
Pooch : A lot of people don't know that both yourself and your brother Egan are BJJ black belts, Could you give us some history of you BJJ training e.g. Who you began training with, who awarded you your black belt, competition's you've entered?
Enson Inoue : I started with Relson Gracie and was eventually awarded my black belt, by Andre Penederias via John Lewis. I won some small inhouse tournaments in Hawaii but after I got a taste of NHB, that was all she wrote.
Pooch : What plans do you have for the future?
Enson Inoue : Like the water in the river. I'll just go with the flow.
Pooch : Well I must ask you this question because it wouldn't be a Enson interview with out it. Do you have any plans to make a comeback to the MMA scene?
Enson Inoue : I don't have any immediate plans but if the timing is right it is a good possibility.
Pooch : Do you have anything to say to your fans?
Enson Inoue : Thanks for all you continued support. If I ever comeback...I'll be back better and more ferocios than ever.
Pooch : Thanks again for your time Enson it's been a absolute pleasure for me to give you this interview. I would like to wish you on behalf of myself and all the MMA fans at SFUK.net all the best with whatever you decide to do in life.
Enson Inoue : Thank you Pooch and hope to hear from you again.
Special thanks to the world's greatest MMA photographer , Susumu Nagao for the permission to use his photos.
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