Mitsuhiro Ishida. Photo courtesy of Fight Entertainment Group.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Top-ranked lightweight (155 lb. limit) mixed martial arts (MMA) gun, Mitsuhiro “The Endless Fighter” Ishida (16-4-1), will make his way from the battlegrounds of Japan for the first time in his seven-year professional career to face former NCAA Division I wrestling stud and rising Team AKA star, Justin “The Silverback” Wilcox (5-2), in the cage at Strikeforce’s mega-event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA on Saturday, September 20th.
Since jumping off to a shaky 2-2 start while fighting at 170 lbs, Wilcox has reset his game plan and reeled off three consecutive victories, including his August 30th conquest of “The Ultimate Fighter” season five cast member, Gabe Ruediger, at a lighter, more comfortable weight.
The 29-year-old native of Cincinnati, Ohio credits the sudden turnaround to his recently formed alliance with San Jose’s Team AKA, the home of Wilcox’s Edinboro University of Pennsylvania wrestling brother, Josh Koscheck.
“I love the way they train. They have that grind that I’m used to from wrestling in college so I feel at home here,” said Wilcox, who became the first true freshman in Edinboro history to win the NCAA national qualifying tournament.
“My college coach always said if you want to be a champ, you have to surround yourself with champs so I went out to AKA and haven’t lost since.”
During his collegiate career, the high-spirited Wilcox was turned on to amateur and, later, on to professional bodybuilding, a stint that helped mold him into the monstrous physical specimen that he is today.
“I’ve always been into one on one competition so MMA was perfect for me. I saw Koscheck fighting on TV one day and I said ‘This is what I want to do.”
Of his recent, three-round unanimous decision over Ruediger, Wilcox feels his opponent took him lightly.
“He thought I was going to be a feeder from him, just a muscle head or something like that. I went there and showed him what I’m all about I rocked him like four times and he pretty much had nothing for me.”
Also 29 years of age and a wrestling phenom known for his exceptional endurance, Ishida infiltrated the top echelon of 155 lb. competitors by conquering numerous other top contenders in Japan’s leading MMA organizations, including the now defunct Pride Fighting Championships as well as Shooto and Dream.
Ishida sent a shockwave through the world of MMA on New Year’s Eve last year when he outfoxed then Strikeforce World Lightweight Champion, “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez, for two, five-minute rounds and handed Melendez the first defeat of his career by way of unanimous judges’ decision at Saitama, Japan’s Saitama Super Arena.