One of the more underrated bantamweights to ever put on a pair of 4oz gloves, Takeya Mizugaki (23-14-2) has retired from mixed martial arts at the age of 36.
— RIZIN FF OFFICIAL (@rizin_PR) June 3, 2020
Unfortunately, the vast majority of current fans may only associate the name Takeya Mizugaki with his loss to Dominick Cruz back in 2014. This is a shame simply because of the fact he has been a mainstay in the bantamweight division – across numerous promotions – for the better part of the decade.
As he began his career with six-straight wins under the Shooto banner, Mizugaki found himself the winner of Shooto’s Bantamweight Rookie Tournament in 2005. This accolade along with numerous other high-profile fights within Shooto earned him a shot in Cage Force where he decimated his competition for five-straight fights, eventually winning the bantamweight championship with a knockout win over Masahiro Oishi.
This run overseas put Mizugaki on the map worldwide when it came to bigger and better mixed martial arts opportunities.
Receiving a contract from World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in 2009, Takeya Mizugaki was given a title shot in his promotional debut. The bantamweight champion at the time is one of the most underrated fighters in the history of MMA, quite truthfully. Heading into this Mizugaki fight, bantamweight king Miguel Torres boasted an absolutely insane 36-1 record.
It was the biggest fight of Mizugaki’s career up to that point, and though he was unsuccessful after 25-minutes of combat, the fight will go down as one of the best to ever take place at 135-pounds. The loss was followed up with a four fight stretch that saw him exchange wins and losses against the likes of Urijah Faber, Rani Yahya, Scott Jorgensen, and Jeff Curran.
Eventually, 2011 came, the UFC absorbed WEC and most of it’s fighters, and Takeya Mizugaki – finally – found himself competing as a UFC bantamweight fighter. This was a five-year run that saw him face even more prominent bantamweight names including Eddie Wineland, Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt, Aljamain Sterling, and Erik Perez.
In numerous ways, many can and do consider the loss to Cruz – a crucial title fight opportunity – as the catalyst for Mizugaki’s downfall in terms of his career as a fighter. Following the defeat, Takeya Mizugaki ended his UFC run with a 1-3 run, with that sole win coming against a well-past-prime George Roop in a decision some disagreed with.
The man was simply not ready to call it quits just yet, though, as he headed to Russia in 2017 and signed with Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA, now Absolute Championship Berkut – ACB) for a three-fight run. This run didn’t feature many opponents that a lot of people have heard of, but he fought absolutely elite competition.
Mizugaki began this new chapter with two-straight defeats to Rustam Kerimov (then 10-0) and Murad Kalamov (then 8-2) before closing out his ACA run with a victory over the highly-touted Pietro Menga.
In 2016, Mizugaki returned home and signed with DEEP out of Tokyo, Japan to defeat a Japanese MMA legend in Shoji Maruyama before signing with RIZIN Fighting Federation and getting knocked out by future RIZIN bantamweight champion and UFC fighter Manel Kape at RIZIN 18.
People will never fully appreciate the caliber of fighter Takeya Mizugaki truly was. He was gritty boxer who lacked power but more than made up for with his stamina, output, and chin. He faced many fighters who were truly elite at the time, or fighters who would go on to become elite, partly in thanks due to the experience of sharing a cage/ring with a fighter such as Takeya Mizugaki.
It is impossible to talk about the history of the bantamweight division without mentioning his name – multiple times – and that fact in and of itself is worth something. He retires with a decades worth of experience when it comes to competing in MMA at the highest level, but he also enters his post-fight journey with a master’s degree in electrical engineering.