Unless you follow Guam's MMA scene closely, or you're a submission grappling head with a great memory, you may not have heard of Melchor Manibusan prior to a few weeks ago, when it was announced that the 32-year-old would step in on short notice to fight Tatsuya Kawajiri.
That's alright, though - the one-time ADCC semi-finalist (in 1999, he was eliminated by eventual Under 65kg champ Royler Gracie) and long-time B.J. Penn training partner Manibusan says this fight is where his MMA career truly begins.
His lightweight match with Kawajiri at tonight's DREAM.11 not only marks one of the most high-profile MMA appearances ever for any fighter from Manibusan's native Guam, but also heralds the descent of a number of Guamanians -- specifically, fighters from Manibusan's Spike 22 gym -- upon the Japanese scene.
Last Friday, the newly-dubbed "Barracuda" took some time out from training to answer a few questions for Bloody Elbow about his return to MMA, prepping for the "Crusher," and what's coming up for him and his team.
Chris Nelson: So it's about three days out from the fight. How you feeling? Where's your weight at? Are you in Japan already?
Melchor Manibusan: Feeling good, light and fast. I'm now at 73kg [160 lbs], three more kilos to go. I'm in Japan now, been here for about four days. Training at [Kid Yamamoto's] Krazy Bee and [Kazushi Sakuraba's] Laughter7. Just sharpening up and staying healthy.
CN: I never heard you called "Barracuda" before this fight was announced. Did DREAM give you that?
MM: Yup, I guess that's my new name. They asked if they could promote me as "the Barracuda." The Japanese fans like names like that.
CN: I read that you're dong a lot of mental preparation for this fight. How do you prepare mentally to face a guy like Kawajiri on his home turf?
MM: Well, I know I'm the underdog here. Kawajiri has an extensive record and fan base. So I know that he has to come out blazing, especially after his last loss to Masato [in K-1]. So, mentally, I'm just not even gonna think about what he can do. I'm just gonna focus on what I can do and what I'm gonna do to him. Block out the crowd and focus on the "W."
CN: Can you give us a taste of the gameplan for Kawajiri?
MM: No game plan. That's the way I usually fight. But I would like to stay off my back - Kawajiri has a good ground 'n' pound game.
CN: Have you talked to DREAM about anything beyond this fight? Are you looking to stay active in MMA after this, or was this just an opportunity that was too good to pass up?
MM: Definitely would love to stay active in the game! However, Sakuraba's manager and I are going to talk to DREAM staff about 65 kilos [143 lbs] for my next fight.
CN: Guam and Spike 22 have been getting a lot of attention lately thanks to guys like yourself and Jesse Taitano. Who else should we be looking out for coming out of Guam?
In December, it's Spike 22 vs. DEEP. Guam champs Justin Cruz [URCC, 140 lbs] and Roque Martinez [PXC, heavyweight] will face the DEEP champs for this event. Some of my other guys like Baby Joe might get on this card as well.