No matter who ends up with their hand raised one of these fighters will be leaving with their first championship belt.
Lethbridge’s own Tim Tamaki (18-28-1) will square off with Kelowna’s Chris Day (5-6) to determine the new Rumble in the Cage featherweight champion at Rumble in the Cage 62 Saturday night in Lethbridge, Alta.
For Tamaki, 36, not only would it be a dream to win his first title, but he said accomplishing that feat in his hometown and for a promotion he’s fought a large portion of his career for would make it all the more satisfying.
“It’s pretty awesome with it being for Rumble, so it means more than anywhere else. I’m just happy to do this for Rumble,” said Tamaki in an interview.
“I’ve been training hard, I feel mentally good, and I just want to fight.”
While this will be Tamaki’s first shot at a title in his career, Day, 29, will be competing for a belt for his third fight in a row, most recently falling to Craig Shintani for the XFFC interim featherweight title and Tom O’Connor for the XFFC featherweight title prior to that.
Day said he feels more prepared and focused for his third crack at the gold than the first two opportunities, and said it would mean a lot to finally seal the deal.
“It would mean everything. I’ve been training hard my whole life for this,” said Day in an interview.
“I’m going to win this title. It’s third time’s a charm and I know for a fact I’m more ready for this fight than I’ve ever been.”
Tamaki Pumped Up
Training out of Canadian Martial Arts Centre, Tamaki recently watched several of his team members go to war at Unified MMA 38, with Sheldon Doll and Jared Kilkenny fighting for the light heavyweight and heavyweight title respectively, and his coach Lee Mein battling a dangerous Grayson Wells.
While Doll and Kilkenny fell short in their title attempts, Mein scored an impressive first round submission win over Wells.
Tamaki said watching his teammates go to battle just a few weeks ago made him even more stimulated to go to war himself and bring home a win for the team.
“It pumped me up so much seeing Lee choke Grayson Wells out,” said Tamaki.
“Even Sheldon and J-Rod, I wanted those guys to win so bad. I just want to win for my team and show that we kick ass. This one’s for my team.”
In his 47-fight professional career, Tamaki has shared the cage with opponents possessing a wide variety of styles and strengths.
When analyzing Day, Tamaki said he expects him to be tough wherever the fight goes, and is expecting a well-rounded, competitive fight on both their parts.
“It’s going to be an MMA fight; it’s going to go everywhere I’m sure,” said Tamaki.
“We’re both good on the ground and we’re both good standing, so I just want to get in there and mix it up. I want to go toe-to-toe on the feet and on the ground.”
New-Found Mental Game
Although training primarily at Toshido MMA, Day spent two months this summer training and competing in Thailand.
He said not only has his overall skill set improved from his time there, but he’s also in a much better place mentally after the experience.
“It actually helped me mostly with the mentality of the sport. People don’t realize this sport is 80 per cent mental when it comes down to fighting,” said Day.
“I feel like being in Thailand I learned a lot of that from the people there and the different culture over there.”
Although Day comes in having dropped three straight, those losses were to three of the top featherweights in Western Canada in Shintani, O’Connor, and Denys Zelenskyi.
Day said it wasn’t all doom and gloom from those losses, however, as he said each loss taught him the importance of sticking to the grind.
“I learned a lot, but mostly to just keep grinding and never quit,” said Day.
“I just need to keep my end goal in mind of making it to one of the big shows.”