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Major motivation: Inaba fights with daughter in mind

Mauian set to face fellow undefeated fighter Field on Saturday at Bellator 268

Sumiko Inaba celebrates after her win over Kristina Katsikis on May 21 in their flyweight fight at Bellator 259. Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan photos

Sumiko Inaba has one major motivation for her professional mixed martial arts career: Her 12-year-old daughter Kiyarah-Lei Inaba.

Sumiko Inaba, a 30-year-old King Kekaulike High School graduate, will face Randi Field in a preliminary bout at Bellator 268 on Saturday night in Phoenix.

Kiyarah-Lei will be on her mind.

“She’s my main motivation — it’s crazy because I want to set a good example for her,” Sumiko Inaba said Tuesday from her hotel room, where she was quarantining while awaiting results of her COVID-19 test. “And with sports and with martial arts, I’m able to do that, to show her what hard work can accomplish. That’s what I love and that’s where I get my motivation from.

“She’s at an interesting age right now, so I’m trying to lead by example. I want her to choose a sport, find something that she loves and maybe it’s not martial arts, but through martial arts I’m able to show that she can find something that she does love and have passion for like I do. She’s 1,000 percent my motivation.”

Sumiko Inaba lands a kick to the face of Kristina Katsikis during their fight in May

Inaba and Field both enter their women’s flyweight fight undefeated.

“I know she’s 2-0, just like me, so that’s great having an opponent who is pretty much the same level as me,” Inaba said. “She is from Canada, fights out of Michigan. Her last fight was in 2019, so she hasn’t fought for a little bit.

“Both of her fights, I was able to watch both of her fights, her pro fights and a couple of her amateur fights. She’s really good. She has good technique and I’m really excited for the challenge.”

Like Inaba, Field appears able to adapt her style of attack to whatever is needed in the cage.

“She seems like she’s ready to go wherever she wants to,” Inaba said. “She doesn’t seem to have any weakness and is very, very tenacious, kind of goes where the fight goes. So, it’ll be exciting. I’m excited to see where she wants to take it. I honestly have no idea, but I’m ready for whatever she brings and no excuses. I’m ready.”

In her last fight, Inaba beat Kristina Katsikis on May 21 in their flyweight bout at Bellator 259 in Uncasville, Conn.

Saturday’s preliminary card will be streamed starting at 1 p.m. Hawaii time on the Bellator MMA and Showtime Sports channels on YouTube. The main card begins at 4 p.m. on Showtime.

The fast start to Inaba’s career has recently landed her an endorsement deal with Waiakea Water Company.

“As a young mom and Hawaiian native, it’s with great honor and pride that Waiakea stands by Sumiko as she keeps growing within her MMA career and positions Hawaii within Bellator’s line up,” the company said in an email.

“They want to support me and honestly I got so lucky, that’s all I can say with that,” Inaba said. “Just an awesome company that wants to support me. That was it, we just connected and they’ve supported me 1,000 percent. They’ve been awesome.”

Inaba said being supported by a local company that cares is a big plus.

“Oh yes, and especially a company that’s very respected,” Inaba said. “I love what they do and how they give back. They have a great program, they give back so much water to people that don’t have water. Their company as a whole is so amazing and the mission that they have behind it is amazing.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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