Despite Andy Souwer’s injury claims, Toby Imada’s defeat of the Shoot Boxing great in Imada’s debut exceeded all expectations, including his own.
“This was a huge achievement for me. A big accomplishment. It’s the first time I’ve competed in Shoot Boxing, especially with this calibre of fighters. It’s completely new to me. I won my first match and it was a good fight and I was very impressed with myself. And Andy Souwer… well, I didn’t expect it but this is what I do. I go out and I fight and I don’t give up,” Imada stated post fight.
Imada wouldn’t be at the top of the list for successful kickboxing converts as he is primarily a grappler but with Shoot Boxing allowing throws and standing submissions, Imada believes his grappling roots gave him the edge.
“I had a good chance to display my skills to everybody. It worked great – this wasn’t kickboxing, it was Shoot Boxing. It was a big step for me, a huge honor. I’m very impressed with myself and very pleased with myself. It it wasn’t for my training and especially my judo I wouln’t be where I was. I owe a lot to judo.”
In Imada’s quarter-finals defeat over Japanese Super-Welterweight Champion Takaaki Umeno, it took the American a full round to find a winning game plan as he initially stood and traded with the much more experienced stand-up artist.
Through the second and third rounds however Imada restored back to what he knows best – his grappling. With Umeno worried about being thrown time and time again, Imada was also able to be more effective with his hands and scored a last second KO.
With a winning gameplan developed Imada then moved on to face the best Shoot Boxing has to offer in Andy Souwer. Although it has since been revealed that Souwer may be been severely injured going into the bout, Imada was again able to bring a much more experienced opponent down by utilizing his judo and then striking.
The bout with Souwer damaged his legs badly though and going into the finals against two-time K-1 MAX Champion Buakaw Por. Pramuk, Imada was out of luck.
“As far as my match with Buakaw, it’s not easy on the body. It’s very hard. By the time that third fight came around my body had taken some punishment and I tried as much as I could but unfortunately my leg couldn’t take any more.”
Imada has become somewhat of a tournament specialist, competing in Bellator’s 2009 and 2010 lightweight tournaments and like his Shoot Boxing S-Cup run, Imada exceeded expectations but lost in the finals of both.
“I didn’t have any expectations. I just know that I needed to go out and fight and not give up and just find a way just like my other MMA fights. I needed to find a way and not give up. It’s been a very successful mindset for me. I could have gone another round if my leg was ok. I wasn’t afraid. I can’t allow myself to give up. If I cannot go any further then that’s one thing but I just can’t give up. I’m proud, it’s in me.”