For Rumble in the Cage featherweight champion Tim Tamaki, what started as late nights watching Jean-Claude Van Damme films and Japan’s Pride FC promotion as a child has turned into an MMA career spanning almost fifty fights.
The veteran Tamaki, 39, defends his championship this Saturday against Josh Kwiatkowski in the main event of Rumble in the Cage 63, and said the fire that burns in his chest for competition and the sport generally is still as fierce as when he debuted all the way back in 2004.
Tamaki said his resume from amateur to professional combined is so extensive that no one, including himself, even knows what his true professional record is.
“I’ve had a ton of amateur fights too. When you see my record listed on Tapology or whatever, lots of those fights are amateur, so I don’t even know what’s what anymore. I don’t have a clue; all I say to explain it is lots of wins, lots of losses,” Tamaki said in an interview with MMA Empire.
Despite his long career, Tamaki has maintained an impressively busy fighting schedule. But Saturday’s challenge in Kwiatkowski will mark his first bout in three years, when he bested Chris Day to attain his featherweight crown in late 2019.
He said though the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns were frustrating initially, when it became clear competition would not be an option in Canada for a while he decided to focus on improving his game in training while dedicating more time and energy to his job and family.
“Other than the first few months of lockdown I’ve basically been able to keep up with my training without too many changes. So I’ve been training pretty steady. I got my black belt in jiu-jitsu a couple months ago, I’ve been sparring lots, and I feel good, man,” said Tamaki.
“I think this is going to be a really exciting fight, you know? He brings pressure, he likes to strike, he goes for aggressive takedowns. Whatever happens, I’m ready for an MMA fight. I like to stand up and strike, I like to go on the ground, I’m happy anywhere. We’re both tough, so I think it’ll be a good, fun fight.”
Being a champion of a promotion based out of your hometown is a luxury few fighters can claim, and while Tamaki does not rule out other opportunities for his future, he is content to plant his feet and defend his title for as long as possible.
“I love fighting for Rumble. It’s my hometown, you know, and my coach (Lee Mein) runs the promotion,” he said.
“They treat the fighters well there and take care of us, no matter where you’re from. The show always starts on time, there’s no hassle with f***ing commissions, the doctors and medical stuff is all ready beforehand. Lee knows how to run a show, which makes for way less stress on the fighters. I’m happy fighting for them.”
“Family members—particularly Kelli-Rae Tamaki— and entire team of coaches and training partners at the Canadian Martial Arts Centre.”