Pat Healy Says Next Opponent Mizuto Hirota Has Similar Fighting Style To Champ Gilbert Melendez: “I Think It’s A Good Fight For Me To Start Preparing For What Gilbert Does.”
By Kelsey Mowatt
After Pat Healy tapped out rising lightweight Caros Fodor in March, to score his fourth straight win under the Strikeforce banner, it didn’t take long for the speculation to begin as to who the surging veteran would fight next. Due to Healy’s recent run there was no question that Strikeforce would look to match the Team Quest fighter up against an established fighter, but few likely predicted that it would be former Sengoku champion, Mizuto Hirota.
“I didn’t really know what they had in store for me,” said Healy, who will fight Hirota at Strikeforce’s upcoming July 14th event in Portland. “They had kind of mentioned that they wanted to bring someone in from the outside, and I think Zuffa’s done a lot in Japan and I welcome an ex-Japanese champ coming in.”
The decision to bring in a fighter came at a time when Healy had already defeated Fodor, who prior to the loss, had beaten another of Strikeforce’s top lightweights in Justin Wilcox.
“I’m happy with it; I think it’s going to be a great challenge,” Healy told Full Contact Fighter. “You know, not to look past Hirota in any way, but I think he has a similar style to the way Gilbert (Melendez) fights also, so I think it’s a good fight for me to start preparing for what Gilbert does.”
Of course, because of Healy’s recent successes, many observers have pointed to the 28 year-old-fighter as someone who could challenge Melendez for his lightweight title next. There has also been considerable discussion and debate as to what Strikeforce intends to do with Melendez, and whether the promotion will bring in another fighter to face him in the interim.
“I would love to see them bring in Eddie Alvarez and have him fight Melendez,” Healy noted about the former Bellator champion. “And then have me fight the winner of that if I beat Hirota. I think that to bring in guys, to get Strikeforce bigger names, is good for any of the athletes in it.”
While Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has acknowledged publicly that he’s interested in having Alvarez challenge Melendez for the title, he has also relayed that the promotion is keeping a close eye on Healy’s rise through the division.
“Unless they brought in Eddie Alvarez I don’t see how they could give the title shot to anyone but me,” said Healy, when asked if he believes a win over Hirota should entrench a bout between him and Melendez. “I think I’ve earned it, and I want to make a really decisive performance against Hirota, and I don’t think they’ll be given any other option. I think it will be the fight that everyone wants to see.”
Hirota (14-4-1) makes his way to Strikeforce having gone 4-1 in his last five fights, with his only loss during that stretch coming against DREAM champion Shinya Aoki. During his tenure with Sengoku the noted striker scored wins over established lightweights in Ryan Schultz, Mitsuhiro Ishida and Satoru Kitaoka. More recently, the 31 year-old Hirota earned wins over Katsunori Kikuno and Seichi Ikemoto while he reigned as DEEP champion.
“He’s got really good hands and he’s quick,” Healy said about his upcoming opponent. “In his last fight it looked like he wrestled more than he has in his last couple fights, but I think he’s definitely going to want to keep it standing, keep me off him, and play the stand-up game.”
Not only is Healy excited about the fight, due to Hirota’s accomplishments and what’s at stake, but because it will take place in the former welterweight’s backyard.
“Anytime you get a fight in your hometown that’s huge; they don’t come around very often,” Healy said about fighting in Portland. “So yeah, I’m super excited. I’ll have tons of support, my friends, my family, my teammates; it’s just a huge bonus.”