Sumiko Inaba’s Rise Continues

Local MMA fighter remains undefeated in professional competition

Sumiko Inaba’s latest fight was tough. But she was tougher.

Courtesy Sumiko Inab / Instagram

The Pukalani-born, King Kekaulike High graduate’s most recent mixed-martial arts victory came at Long Beach Arena’s Bellator 286 in Southern California in October. It was a rematch with Nadine Mandiau, and raised her professional record to 5-0. 

In their previous bout, in 2018, when they were both competing as amateurs, Inaba defeated Mandiau in a little over a minute. 

This time, the competition was fiercer.

The fight went three hard rounds, with the competitors trading blows. At certain points, Inaba seemed on the verge of victory; at other points, defeat seemed more than possible. 

In the end, Inaba won by unanimous decision, but it wasn’t easy. While she landed multiple jabs and front kicks, she was unable to end the match by knockout or submission. 

Courtesy Sumiko Inab / Instagram

It was the first time in her pro career she had a fight go to the judges. Though they ruled in her favor, it was a reminder that this sport requires growth and discipline. 

Inaba—who is a warrior in the cage but exceedingly kind and soft-spoken outside of it—described the Bellator 286 experience with typical humility.

“Completely new, different ring, bigger crowd, more to the fight week and all the emotions that come with it,” she said. “So, I took it as a completely new fight. She was a great new opponent, as well. She came with a lot more skill and a lot more fight, and she gave it to me.”

Nicknamed the “Lady Samurai”, the 5’4” Inaba was a nursing student before she entered the MMA world. In May, she told MauiTimes, “Being a mom and pursuing this career is awesome. I get to show my [13-year-old daughter] what it means to have confidence and feel strong as a growing girl.”

Sumiko is growing, too. The next step is to move up the rankings in the female flyweight division with Bellator, which is one of the world’s largest combat sports promoters, alongside Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Comparisons have been made between Inaba and Ilima-Lei “The Ilimanator” Macfarlane, an Oahu-born wahine flyweight who achieved five-time champion status with Bellator. 

“I can only be grateful for Ilima for paving this way for me as a Hawaiian fighter,” Inaba told Cageside Press prior to her Bellator 286 win. “She’s done so much. I’ve watched both of her fights in Hawai‘i—they were chicken skin from the walkout to the fight and performance itself. To be able to keep up with that is just inspiration, and I think that, yeah, I strive to be exactly what she was, and that’s the champ.” 

Based on her unblemished record and rising-star status, that goal is within reach.

Jacob Shafer