Russell “Da Muscle” Mizuguchi has worked hard to get where he is in the mixed martial arts world. The Hilo-based Boss MMA fighter, out of BJ Penn’s Training and Fitness Center, is 4-0 in his pro career, after going 9-0 as an amateur.
He landed a spot in Bellator 213 in a flyweight bout against former foe Michael Nakagawa on Saturday at Neal Blaisdell Center on Oahu. The main card is Honolulu’s Ilima Macfarlane vs. Valerie Letourneau for the 125-pound title. Hilo’s Chris Cisneros fights Maki Pitolo at welterweight (170 pounds).
On Friday at Bellator 212 on Oahu, Hilo’s Tobey Misech takes on Edward Thommes at featherweight (145 pounds), and Honokaa’s Kaeo Meyer battles Tywan Claxton at catchweight (150 pounds).
It’s Mizuguchi’s first shot for a big-name fight promotion, and he’s hoping it leads to bigger things. It’s a one-fight deal with a $1,500/$1,500 payday; $1,500 to show and $1,500 for a win.
However, it’s probably not a good time to be a flyweight fighter right now. There have been reports that the Ultimate Fighting Championship is wiping out the 125-pound division and releasing its fighters.
The UFC recently traded former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who reeled off 11 straight UFC title defenses, for welterweight Ben Askren of ONE Championship, the Singapore-based promotion.
Bellator only runs a flyweight division for women. The lightest weight class for men is bantamweight at 135 pounds.
Mizuguchi could very well be fighting for his place in the MMA’s unstable role in the flyweight division.
Despite the turmoil, he’s put that out of his mind. He’s ready to put on a show and impress any scouts from ONE Championship.
“I’m super stoked,” he said. “I finally get a shot on a big show. Putting in all this work, the training in the morning and late at night is going to pay off.”
He beat Nakagawa by split decision at X1 48, a Hawaii promotion, on Aug. 12, 2017. Mizuguchi gave Nakagawa a good pounding before losing the final round.
“I remember the whole fight I was in control,” Mizuguchi said. “There was not any time that he was winning. In the last round, he was pushing me, and I felt that gave him the split decision.
“I feel like I’m getting a foot in the door for sure. I’m in the big leagues, and hopefully, it opens up more opportunities for me. ONE Championship has lower weight classes, and I wouldn’t mind testing myself. For sure, this is a big step.”
Mizuguchi has to get past Nakagawa (6-3) first. He’s pulled off two submission wins after his loss to Mizuguchi.
“I’ve been watching his last four of fights, and wrestling is his base,” Mizuguchi said. “After our fight, he’ll want to put me on his back, before I put him on his back. I’m good at getting back on my feet. I don’t think he can hold me down. I think he’ll keep it on his feet to avoid my takedowns.”
Whatever the outcome, Mizuguchi will be back at work the next day.
“It’s about time I got into a big organization,” he said. “I’ll train however long it takes to get that opportunity.”