Chai Kimura isn’t hesitant about labeling his upcoming bout against CJ Kahepu‘u as the biggest fight of his career.
Kimura hopes the match with Kahepuu will catapult him to new heights.
“I am starting to notice the cage fighting scene of Kauai is starting to make moves,” Kimura said. “Shows like this should bring more attention to the MMA scene, and that is what we need.”
The Kauai natives are two of Hawaii’s top amateur fighters at 155 pounds. They will battle on the main card in the “Kauai Cage Match” at 5 p.m. Sunday at Kukui Grove Center in the old Sports Authority location.
The Kauai Open, a two-day mixed martial arts showcase, begins Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Getting ready for the 14-card fight can take months of preparation for a match that takes about nine minutes to complete.
The physical preparation for the match and the mental training are labor-intensive, Kimura said.
He watched hours of film studying Kahepuu’s tendencies in hopes of finding a weaknesses.
He equates the mentality of fighting a cage match to war.
“With war, you just kind of do it, and you can’t explain it,” Kimura said. “When I fight, I can’t explain how I do it, and it just comes to me.”
He will cut weight, do basic training, and try to overcome the emotional and psychological components of the build-up to prepare for the intense atmosphere on fight night.
“I try to visualize over and over again all different scenarios of the match,” Kimura said. “You have to picture yourself winning and destroying your opponent at the same time.”
The moments leading up to the fight can increase in intensity as he fights multiple variables leading up to the bout.
“Every time I get super focused, especially in the back when you are prepared to walk out, and the crowd doesn’t bother me,” Kimura said. “I just focus on performing and competing the best I can.”
King of the room
The battle for supremacy for Kimura to maintain his title as Hawaii’s top amateur will not be easy against his Westside opponent, who remains undefeated with a 3-0 record.
Kimura, also 3-0, reads off Kahepuu’s tendencies like a big-time football coach getting ready for a game with postseason implications.
“My opponent is 3-0, undefeated, tall, long, and explosive,” Kimura said. “I always do a lot of cardio training, and I keep working on myself to get better.”
Kimura is worried about his opponent because he knows he’s up-and-coming and has the desire and skill to push himself to the top.
“I’ve been watching, and he’s a good fighter,” Kimura said. “I’ve never fought him before, but he’s been on my radar for sure.”
He knows if he isn’t aware of fighters, he won’t win.
“It’s always better to watch opponents and try to figure out what they do, and prepare a little better,” Kimura said. “You have to get better as a martial artist, and as an amateur, that is paying attention to what you do.”
One of these two fighters will catapult themselves into bigger and better cage matches, if not both them, Kimura said.
“Winning is the first big step to achieving a lot of my goals that I have set out to achieve, and I am sticking with MMA,” Kimura said.
Touching down from the mainland
Tee Jay Britton, a Missouri-native, will be one of the first professional cage fighters participating in Sunday’s cage match.
Britton is an athletic anomaly who was an alternate on the United States Olympic team in the 800-meter dash. But perhaps his size and weight make him unusual in cage fighting.
The 37-year-old weighs 135 pounds and stands at 6 feet, 4 inches, and his wingspan makes it difficult for his opponents to battle him.
“We had 27 guys back out of fighting me, and they said ‘no way I am fighting him in three months,’” Britton said. “That is when I realized as an amateur, I needed to take the next step.”
Britton, who earned titles in 13 organizations, would give his belts away.
The former basketball player for Missouri Southern from 2006-2008 also spent time playing professional basketball overseas. He has a total of four television fights with the Legacy Fighting Alliance.
“The publicity that I received from MMA was great, and I started going to churches and using this platform to talk to young people,” Britton said. “Who would have thought? Here I am on this beautiful island, and I get to fight, speak, and spend time with family over here.”
The game will also include big-name competitors from UFC who will be signing autographs. They include Yancy Mederios, Maki Pitolo, both from UFC, and Ray Brada Cooper from the Professional Fighters League, who will all be signing autographs.
“I enjoy being around the professional MMA competitors,” Kimura said. “Seeing them makes me think I can do it.”
Tickets for the show start at $35 and will be available at the door or in advance at Pascua’s Ainofea Kauai store at Kukui Grove Center. Tickets for the match are also available at Pono Market in Kapaa and Wong’s Chinese Restaurant in Hanapepe.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.