Ray Hui: The news of you returning came out of the blue. How did this come about?
Enson Inoue: I've been wanting to come back to thank the fans for helping me stay in Japan and I got a good offer. I was just planning to get in to thank the fans for (their support) -- they sent in over 9,000 petitions to keep me in Japan when I was having my problems with immigration. And out of appreciation for that, instead of saying thank you, they keep saying they want to see my spirit in the ring again, and I figured there's no better way to pay them back than to get in there one more time.
RH: How did your imprisonment make you stronger?
EI: You know when you go to prison, everything's taken away from you. Your freedom, your time, what you want to eat, what time you sleep, what time you wake up, what time you brush your teeth, what time you take a bath.
When you're in the outside world, you can make all the choices in your life, but -- you're grumbling about your job, you're grumbling about your car broke down, you're grumbling about having to pay the electric bill. You realize that those aren't the things to grumble about.
You think rain is the worst thing in the world, but you can't even feel the rain on your face when you're inside. The only time you can feel is during exercise time when there's a little screen and you can feel the rain come down and we actually stand in the rain and feel the rain -- it's something that I'd run to the car not wanting to get hit by the rain.
The appreciation level changes just changes for whatever you feel and experience in life. It's made my whole life, overall, much more happy.
RH: You reputation in MMA has been about putting your life on the line when you fight. As you grow older, encountering more family, relationships, opening gyms, and appreciating life more, is there a part of you that thinks MMA is more of a sport now and you don't have to be in a fight with the mindset of being willing to die?
EI: It's not even a choice for me. It's just a mindset that I go into instinctively. And as far as I'm concerned, the further down in life I get, the more I know about the goods and the bads, the backstabbers, the crazy stuff in the world that happens, dying in the ring -- it actually got a lot easier for me.