Enson Inoue will fight for the first time in Hawaii tonight in Super Brawl 35.

Inoue a relentless fighter

Enson Inoue has filled four gyms with people who want to be a little bit more like him.

They come hoping that a little of the "Yamato Damashii," or Japanese spirit, as Inoue is known, will rub off on them. Although they pick up lessons on fighting at the highest level, every one of the students harbors a hope that he can learn to set pain aside enough to never quit.

Super Brawl 35

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Blaisdell Arena
Enson Inoue (11-7) vs. Tom "Trauma" Sauer (14-6)
Rich "Ace" Franklin (12-1) vs. Leo Sylvest (11-12)
Jeff Curran (11-6-1) vs. Kimihito Nonaka (6-6-2)
Ryan Bow (10-5) vs. Deshaun Johnson (5-6)
Tetsuji Kato (16-5) vs. Jason Dent (3-1)
Makoto Ishikawa (9-5-1) vs. Antoine Skinner (4-3)
Riki Fukuda vs. Joe Doerksen (25-6)
Kerry "Meat Truck" (14-6) vs. Ray "King Kong" Seraille (3-5)
Toshikazu Iseno vs. Bart Palaszewski (7-3)
Jyoji Yamaguchi vs. Billy Kidd (2-0)

Just like Inoue always does.

They come to the gym (three in Japan, one in Guam) asking for something Inoue can never give them. And probably would not give them even if he could.

"That uniqueness is something people want to be a part of," Inoue said. "And it is not something that can be taught. If someone shows up and doesn't have it in them, they won't last long. But for those who do have the heart, I believe we can develop it just like someone can develop their brain by going to school."

Knowing that so many come to his gyms wanting to be like him puts Inoue in the unfortunate situation of being conflicted. And Inoue is not a man who likes to be conflicted.

When his friend Richard Lee, a Punahou graduate, died in Tower 2 on 9/11, Inoue dropped everything to join the military and fight in Afghanistan. He was serious enough to talk the Army into waiving its age limit, but could not find a way around the tattoo on the back of his head that ultimately kept him out. Inoue, who turned 37 yesterday, put his fighting career off for a year waiting to enlist and has fought only once since then.

It's that ability to drop everything and focus only on the task at hand that draws students and fans to him whether they share that something special or not. 

"Purebred is crazy, it's not for everyone," Inoue said "But nobody is pushed and it's not like a mandatory rule that you have to be crazy like me. I cringe a lot when I watch my fighters in the ring and wonder why they don't tap -- it's just stupid. I always tell them they don't have to be like me, that it's OK to tap."

They also come to learn how to win like the man who is 11-7 in a sport where simply being better than .500 after 15 fights is a sign of excellence. If they only knew that winning is always the furthest thing from their mentor's mind.

"I don't really (care) about winning and losing," Inoue said. "I wish I did. It might make me a smarter fighter and would help my game. I just am more interested in going into the scariest part of the fighter because I think winning and losing is more a matter of destiny."

Inoue's losses have made him much more famous than his wins. When he is matched up with someone like Tom "Trauma" Sauer, as he will be tonight in Super Brawl 35, fans talk about the fight for itself rather than the outcome, because Inoue will make it exciting regardless.

Sauer is known as an aggressive striker, which means Inoue will start the fight allowing Sauer to try to give him his best shot, like he did in a now-famous loss to Igor Vovchanchyn.

Inoue cemented his reputation as the true last samurai in that fight with Vovchanchyn, spending four days in the hospital after suffering a ruptured eardrum, cracked jaw, broken finger and a brain swollen to the point where doctors called it critical. Even with that 10 minutes of punishment, Inoue refused to quit and dished out more than his fair share of pain.

Inoue watched that bout on tape shortly afterward, staring in horror at the punishment the man on the screen took without quitting. Only he knows that the reason he didn't give up is that it was never an option.

And sometimes, he wishes it were. If he can tear himself away from preparation tonight long enough to see one of his seven students on the card do battle, he will probably wish it were an option for them.

"If I ever have a thought in my head like, 'Oh, this guy's going to break my arm,' and ignored that, it would be stupid," Inoue said. "It is just nothing that I have ever thought of. I am too busy thinking about fighting to think about quitting.

"The way I look at it is that being a human being, I am not going to play the role of God. I will try to get out of a dangerous situation (without tapping) and if I get hurt doing it, it was probably destiny."


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