Throughout his mixed martial arts career, Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada has proved he does not know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’
The Japanese flyweight – who faces unbeaten promotional newcomer Ivanildo “Monstrinho” Delfino at ONE: FIRE & FURY on Friday, 31 January – has experienced hardship throughout his mixed martial arts career, but he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in his home country.
Before he enters the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines for his flyweight tilt, discover how the 31-year-old battled the odds to become a World Champion.
Out Of His Shell
Wada was born in the Yamanashi prefecture of Japan, and he admits he was quiet when he was young.
“I was definitely an introvert when I was a child,” he says.
“The shyness I had as a kid still hasn’t completely gone away. I’m still a bit shy when it comes to meeting someone for the first time.”
However, he started to come out of his shell when he began to practice martial arts.
Wada got his feet wet in traditional Japanese disciplines, and they laid the foundations for his future career.
“I got into mixed martial arts because my dad did karate, and I eventually started doing Kyokushin karate as well because of him,” explains “The Sweeper.”
“Then, I did judo throughout my time at high school. After I began martial arts, I started to gain some confidence and slowly turned into a very lively child.”
As he got older, Wada decided he wanted to do more than just practice these distinct arts.
“When I was in my last year of high school – discussing university and career options with my school counselor – mixed martial arts came to mind as something I’d like to pursue,” he says.
“That’s when I decided I wanted to have a career as a pro fighter, and from then on, my focus was on becoming a pro fighter.”
After high school, “The Sweeper” moved to Tokyo to join the renowned Yoshida Dojo, and after several amateur bouts, he became a professional.
His graduation to the pro ranks was not as easy as just making the decision to do so, however. He had to earn it.
“There was a tournament, that if you won, you became a pro fighter, and I won that tournament in the Kanto region,” he explains.
“After that, I went to the nationals, and I lost the first fight there. But, fortunately, because of what I showed during the fight, I was able to go pro.”
When he went pro in 2008, “The Sweeper” quickly found out that life in the professional ranks would not be easy.
He competed mostly in the DEEP organization, but because it did not have his natural flyweight division, his first 18 bouts were up at bantamweight. What’s more, his first five opponents had a combined record of 33-13-9.
It is no surprise that he lost his first five match-ups, but he never got discouraged.
“I didn’t pay attention to the fact that my opponent would be bigger than me. I just fought,” he says.
“Although I lost four times after my debut, I remained positive. It didn’t cross my mind to give up just because I lost, because more than anything, I was passionate about, and enjoyed doing, mixed martial arts.”
“I lost a lot while I was in the bantamweight class. For any opponent that beat me, I just thought, ‘I’ll get them next time,’ and focused on training.”
Facing larger rivals forced Wada to focus on technique, and it paid off. He made it all the way to a shot at the DEEP Bantamweight World Title.
Although he was not successful in his challenge, he soon got the chance to move down a division. Enormous success followed as he went 11-1 at flyweight, won the Deep Flyweight World Title belt twice, and defended it once. That earned him the chance to step up to ONE Championship.
The Next Step
Martial arts has given the Tokyo native a lot – including a career that allows him to provide for his baby daughter, and many valuable lessons about how he should live his life.
“Doing mixed martial arts and being in a karate dojo has taught me to use respectful language to people above me, as well as to my coaches and teachers. That’s something that has been useful, even outside of mixed martial arts,” Wada says.
“I’m honestly not sure what changed within me, but with all the training I had done since I started mixed martial arts, I began to think that it’s important to continue something because you love it.
“I think that’s why I’m able to grow and learn as well. I think I’ve come this far because of continuous training.”
Now he will put his never-say-quit spirit to the test against Delfino, the undefeated Jungle Fight Flyweight Champion, in front of thousands of fans in the Philippine capital.
A win at the Mall Of Asia Arena will undoubtedly bring him a step closer toward his ultimate goal of challenging for the ONE Flyweight World Title.