When Poai Suganuma says he’d love to be a full-time fighter, he isn’t kidding, even if it means postponing other career opportunities.
Suganuma is one of four semifinalists in the light heavyweight grand prix that co-headlines tonight’s X-1: Heroes card at the Blaisdell Arena.
While most of the buzz surrounds a main event featuring Waianae’s Kala Kolohe Hose and Waipahu’s Falaniko Vitale, the tournament features fighters from all over the world.
Suganuma faces Russia’s Vitaly Shemetov in one semifinal bout. The other pits undefeated Roy Boughton of California against South Korea’s Sang Soo Lee.
"I personally hate fighting local guys," Suganuma said. "This is a chance to fight some of the best guys from all over, so it’s definitely exciting."
The opportunity has given Suganuma, who trains in Hilo with B.J. Penn, a second shot at a full-time mixed martial arts career.
» Tonight, 5:30
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT GRAND PRIX
X-1 FLYWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
X-1 BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
After spending time in Japan, where he went 4-1 in the Pancrase, Suganuma returned home for a fight in Icon Sport before headlining two ShoXC events on Showtime.
After losses to Jared Hamman and Yancy Medeiros, Suganuma faded into obscurity and wasn’t seen again until the beginning of this X-1 grand prix.
"I was kind of over all of it," Suganuma said. "Then somebody asked if you want to fight for X-1, and I said, ‘yeah.’ Started getting in shape and getting the bug again."
His MMA aspirations were put to the test this week when a scheduling conflict arose.
Suganuma has been training to be a firefighter and passed the written test. His physical test was scheduled to be this weekend, the same time as his fight.
Unable to reschedule the physical test, Suganuma had a choice to make, one that didn’t take much time.
"I said I’d come here and live up to my obligations for X-1," Suganuma said. "Who knows? Maybe it was supposed to be this way."
At 10-3 overall, a victory in this tournament could be the path toward bigger fights in the future.
For now, the talented ground fighter, who has knocked out or submitted his opponent in seven of his 10 wins, is focused on the major task at hand.
"(Shemetov) is a good kickboxer and has some takedowns," Suganuma said. "I’m not putting any pressure on myself and looking toward the future. Right now, I’m worried about getting past him."
His fans and training partners in Hilo will have a chance to see the fight live. X-1 announced this week that the event will be available on pay-per-view on Oceanic on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.
It will also be streamed online at X1Events.com.
The first of seven preliminary fights is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. The main card, featuring six fights in all, including three world title bouts, starts at 7.