Katsunori Kikuno was one of the 155-pound division's breakout names in 2009, storming through Deep's lightweight title tournament and straight on to the big stage of Dream with his awkward karate-zombie stance and trademark gut-busting crescent kick. After having his nine-fight win streak snapped last fall with a submission loss to Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez, Kikuno rebounded in March with a stunning knockout of Cage Force titlist Kuniyoshi Hironaka.
Over at Sherdog, Tony Loiseleur has penned a terrific piece on the 28-year-old rising star and his mentor, Tsuyoshi "TK" Kosaka, wherein the pair discuss topics from Kikuno's Kyokushin roots to why he uses "We Are The World" as an entrance theme.
Fighting for Dream, the spiritual successor to Pride, was the realization of a momentous life goal for Kikuno. However, he claims that this overpowering joy derailed his focus, resulting in his submission loss to Eddie Alvarez at Dream 12.
"By the time of the Hironaka fight, I learned my lesson," Kikuno says. "Before, I used to vaguely imagine winning, telling myself, ‘I’m going to win.’ Then I’d spend lots of time thinking about what I would say on the microphone after the fight, and that was it."
In an attempt to remedy this, Kikuno resorted to the image training lessons of Dr. Fumio Nishida, whose book, "Number One Theory," he credits for the Hironaka victory.
"[Nishida’s book] basically claims that what you imagine, you can better realize in reality, so I persistently imagined knocking [Hironaka] out with my liver kick or punches, over and over again," Kikuno says. "And then in the fight, it happened exactly as I imagined it.
"I’m still working on my stance," he adds. "When I say that, I also mean that I’m working on the perfect union of the stance of my body and the stance of my mind."