The time has finally come again for Craig Shintani.
Sherwood Park’s Shintani (7-2) will take on Kelowna’s Chris Day (5-5) for the XFFC interim featherweight title at XFFC 21 on Friday night in Grande Prairie Alta., with the winner also getting the next crack at current featherweight champion Tom O’Connor.
It’s been a rough go for Shintani, not having fought since 2017. He was scheduled to face Tom O’Connor for the XFFC featherweight title in December before O’Connor was forced out due to injury. He then locked down a fight with Clay Dixon for the vacant Unified MMA featherweight title, but had Dixon flee the arena minutes before the fight.
“It’s been a tough stretch. It’s been challenging, to say the least. But these things do happen,” said Shintani.
“When it rains it pours, and right now it’s pouring. Hopefully we can stop that with Chris. Hopefully he shows up and everything goes the way we all hope for and we do get a fight out of this.”
Shintani, 27, was originally scheduled to face O’Connor Friday night before he was forced out once again due to injury, leaving Shintani wondering if his bad luck was going to continue.
Shintani said he’s grateful for Day stepping up and taking the fight on short notice, and has all the respect in the world for him.
“I’ll be thanking Chris for sure when I see him because Darren Cliffe worked his butt off to get a fight. He called between seven and 10 guys and most said no or didn’t answer their phone. Chris was the only guy that said yes,” said Shintani.
“It means a lot to me just to be able to compete. I’m not going to be picky with who I fight, where I fight, or when I fight. With Chris stepping up on short notice, I have nothing but respect for him.”
While preparing for O’Connor, Shintani said he and his team watched plenty of footage from his last fight, coincidentally with Day. When Day was confirmed as his new opponent, Shintani said it was simply a matter of reversing the roles when watching the fight.
Shintani said he believes he and his team have constructed a game plan that will earn him the win, and also a finish.
“We have a pretty solid game plan on what we think is the most efficient way to win, and I think that will result in a stoppage in the late first or second round,” said Shintani.
“But we’re also prepared for three rounds. We know Chris is tough and doesn’t quit, so it’s not going to be easy to get him out of there.”
No Fear in Day
While Shintani has proven to possess a great deal of knockout power, with three of his wins coming by striking, Day, 29, said it’s not something he’s concerned about.
He said he hasn’t altered any areas in his training to prepare for Shintani’s striking, and that it’s all about executing his game plan.
“It’s just business as usual. I have a lot of training partners that are pretty powerful too,” said Day.
“If I fight my game plan and fight a smart fight, I’m sure I’ll come out on top fighting anybody.”
Prior to accepting the fight with Shintani, Day spent two months training at various facilities in Thailand, including AKA Thailand and Phuket Top Team.
Day said it was a great experience for him and feels he’s improved as a fighter since returning home.
“It was awesome. It was a huge opportunity,” said Day.
“I feel I grew as a fighter since I’ve been there. There was so much to see; it’s the fighting capital out there.”
Day enters this contest coming off two losses to O’Connor at XFFC 18 and Denys Zelenskyi at Saturday Night Fights 13.
He said he’s hungry and eager for a win, which would also set up a rematch with O’Connor for the featherweight title.
“I definitely see myself getting the win, no question. I’ve been training for the last three months really hard,” said Day.
“I think this fight could go the distance, or it could be a quick fight. I’m just going to fight my fight, fight smart, have a good time, and get that title.”
“I want to thank Chris for taking the fight and Darren for making it happen, Clinch Fight Shop, Pierce McAllister, my coaches and everybody else at Kingdom MMA, my amazing fiancee, and everybody that supports me.”
“I’d like to thank my whole team at Toshido MMA, my sponsors A Alimonti’s Plastering & Stucco, Doctor Coughee, and Little Creek Grill.”