Yushin Okami understands there are favorites and underdogs in all sports. And he has no problem being cast as the underdog Saturday night.
Okami meets UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC 134 inside a sold-out HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I am inspired by watching various sports,” Okami said. “Especially, I was inspired by the victory of the Japanese women’s soccer team in the World Cup at this time. It taught me how important it is for me to believe in myself once again.”
Okami (26-5) knows that not many believe he can be the one to stop Silva (30-4) but he does have a win over “The Spider” already to his credit – by disqualification in 2006 due to an illegal upkick by Silva.
Since entering the UFC, “Thunder” has lost just twice, to Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen, with both defeats coming by decision.
“I believe it (a win over Silva) would add one more boost to the Japanese people who are now working really hard to reconstruct Japan. Japan has been suffering in a difficult situation, and when I think about what I can do, the answer is getting the belt from Anderson, so I have been focusing on it,” Okami said.
Okami also isn’t taking much from his previous win over Silva, considering how the fight end and the time between the two bouts.
“I do not think that was my victory,” Okami said. “I think the fight has never been given any conclusion. I am glad to bring an end to that fight on the best stage.”
Silva and Okami fought on the same card at UFC 64, where Silva captured the middleweight title and Okami defeated Kalib Starnes.
Okami went 4-1 in his first five UFC matches, and even earned a rematch with Silva, which was set for UFC 90 in 2008. But a broken hand took him out of the bout and he has been working to secure another shot at the champion ever since.
Okami topped Nate Marquardt in 2010 in a title-eliminator bout, giving him that elusive meeting with Silva. Asked if he thought he might never get a title shot if he lost to Marquardt, Okami replied, “Yes, I did.”
“The victory over Marquardt gave me a lot of confidence,” the 30-year-old said. “Also by winning that fight, I was given a clear vision of my title shot, so I started to think about fighting Anderson Silva from that moment.”
Okami knows that Silva will be given a hero’s welcome by the Brazil faithful when he begins his trek to the Octagon.
“I still remember his appearance. It was something like an aura. And I felt how good he was, but I will utilize that experience to guide myself to a better direction.”