Posted by Tommy Hackett on May 5th, 2008
Inoue and Sotiropoulos both begin and end their seminar with classic jiu-jitsu escapes. Among the simple and fundamental movements that every black belt masters, escapes are especially valuable to the beginners in attendance who often find themselves in bad positions.
Inoue remembers when he learned how important it is to win the battle for positional dominance, and how it led to one of the most controversial moments of his fighting career.
The first bout between Enson Inoue and Joe Estes took place twelve years ago in Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, but Inoue laughs, “I remember it like it was last month.”
“What Joe Estes taught me,” he explains, “was that being on bottom was a bad place. I always thought, I was a jiu-jitsu guy, I thought the bottom was good, but he was bigger, he controlled me, and I lost a decision. It was ridiculous.”
“The second fight,” he continues, “I was offered a fight in PRIDE 1 and I turned it down because Shooto wanted me to fight for the title. I said I’d rather get a world title than fight in PRIDE. PRIDE was offering me ten grand; that was big for me at the time. I was getting two grand for Shooto! I told Shooto, it’s a title fight then I’ll turn down PRIDE to fight for you guys. They said okay. They asked me if I’d fight Joe Estes again because he beat me and he was ranked #2 and I was ranked #1, and so I asked for Joe Estes, and then two weeks before the fight they told me that I couldn’t get the fight because Joe Estes was asking for too much money. Because he beat me and he’s the one who should be paid more… which I think he was at the time. The reason I was so upset with that fight was because he told them that he should get paid more. I told Shooto, even if it goes to zero, whatever he needs, take it out of my pay. And that’s what happened, that’s how they got him. They had to take my fight money and put in his. That’s what I was so pissed off at the fight; he talked like, so big.”
What happened next was one of the most intense staredowns in MMA history as the two fighters were held from one another by the referee during introductions. The fight was brief, as Inoue would sweep Estes, attain a full mount, and earn the victory as Estes tapped out from punches barely a minute into the first round. But an enraged Inoue continued his assault after the referee called a halt to the bout, landing several punches before being restrained.
“I hit him with one good punch from the mount,” Inoue explains. “The only time I hit him, I faked when he tried to stick his hand in (to defend) and that’s when I got him with a couple shots, and he tapped out. He demands money, all that stuff, I mean at least, put up you know! That’s what upset me. I mean, you put up such a big talk, you took money from me. One more punch! One more punch! You know, be a man, dude! That’s what it was all about. Everyone’s like, Enson’s a dick! But there was so much tension going up to that fight, I was so upset about it.”
Reminded of the staredown, Inoue recalls: “That pissed me off too. He was staring me down like he was going to kick my ass. And it was like, oh my God, he punks out. Come on, man!”
When the dust settled, Inoue found himself Shooto heavyweight champion, and high profile bouts with PRIDE followed. Now, on any given week, Inoue can be found training at one of his Purebred network of gyms in Japan, Guam, and Thailand, or at one of the US gyms he calls “affiliates”: Undisputed in California and Fisticuffs in Washington.
Travel is another thing Inoue and Sotiropoulos share in common. In fact, Sotiropoloulos has recently switched residences from his native Australia to Long Island, NY.
“After TUF6,” he explains, “I basically went to New York with Team Serra and I’ve been there since.”
The results, two straight UFC wins, would seem to speak for themselves.
“It’s been positive,” Sotiropoulos continues. “I’ve improved all aspects of my game. My standup, my ground, my wrestling. Lots of good guys to train with out there. That’s why I’m there.”
Last month, two of Inoue’s protégés fought in high profile matches in Japan: Purebred Spike 22’s Pat “Gori” Ayuyu in K-1, and Undisputed’s Baret Yoshida in Shooto. They lost, but showed the character that Inoue demands.
“I actually missed the (Red Belt) movie premiere in LA for it,” Inoue recalls, “but I wouldn’t have missed Pat’s fight for the world. Sentimentally, emotionally, he needed me in the corner and I was going to be there. So I was there for his fight. He did good. He fought for the first time, one of the world class fighters (in Gago “Drago” Aroetjunjan) you know. It was a good experience.”
Yoshida was fighting MMA for the first time since 2003 when he took on top Shooto featherweight Hatsu Hioki, losing via T/KO at 4:51 on round one. “He didn’t do too well,” Inoue explains, “but I think he picked a bad fight for his comeback. His total feeling after the fight, he wasn’t crushed, he was more excited because he actually got back. It was a big thing for him to just get step back into the MMA ring. He was excited. He lost, but he’s looking forward to coming back soon. And Shooto wants him back soon, too.”