When Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi was only 9 years old, her entire world was turned upside down. when her mother died.
At the time, the ONE Championship women’s atomweight superstar was living with her sister in the United States, and their tragic loss left them in an unimaginable position.
“My father was in Japan, so me, my sister, and my mother lived in California,” she explains.
“When my mother died, we were all alone. We didn’t have any relatives to raise us so we had guardians with us for half a year until my father could get ready to live with us in Japan.
“Me and my sister were supporting each other. That was our life in California.”
It was the most difficult moment of her life, particularly because at that age, she struggled to comprehend that her mother would not be around anymore.
“I never lost someone close to me. My mother was the first one I lost,” Yamaguchi explains.
“I didn’t know what death meant. I didn’t know what it really meant. I needed one or two years to know what that really means to me.
“Every time when I needed someone to support me, there was no one there. That’s when I felt lonely and how my mother was important. It was really hard.”
Yamaguchi later moved back to her homeland, and as she grew up, she got involved in martial arts. Through her training, she found a support network that helped her to grow stronger, and a passion.
From her earliest days in the sport until now, “V.V.” rarely spoke about her mother because she never wanted to seem like she was appealing for sympathy due to the tragedy she faced as a child. She wanted to show her strength through her performances on the global stage for martial arts.
That changed when she started finding inspiration in the personal stories she heard from the other athletes in The Home Of Martial Arts.
It gave her the inspiration to then share her story in the hope that she could help other people who have struggled to overcome similar tragedy in their lives.
“I always wanted people to see my skills as a fighter,” Yamaguchi explains.
“I just want them to see me as an athlete, but when I see other fighters’ backgrounds and how they went through a struggle, I get some power from those stories. I thought if I did the same thing, I could give some power to other women.
“I never realized that until I fought for ONE Championship. So that’s a great thing to be a ONE athlete. I know that people can get some power from the fighters and what kind of background we have.
“When I started feeling those kinds of things, I wanted to talk about my family and how I grew up.”
Living with her loss is still not easy for Yamaguchi, but the rest of her family, and her martial arts community, offers her support and motivates her to follow her dream.
The 36-year-old believes the best way to honor her mother’s memory is to live her life to the fullest and do what she loves the most every day.
When she finally reunites with her mother one day, she hopes to tell stories of a life well lived and make her proud.
“When I lost my mother, I always thought that you don’t know when your life ends,” Yamaguchi says.
“I just thought I need to do what I really love to do and that was mixed martial arts for me. That’s why I keep fighting.
“When I see my mother again in heaven or somewhere, I want to show that I enjoyed my life and I gave everything. I did my best. I just wanted to show how I loved my life to my mother.”
Inspired by the thought of her mother looking down on her, and her determination to succeed, she will go for the win against Kseniya “The Tigress” Lachkova with every ounce of her energy.