Resembling a battle-ready version of Ashton Kutcher with a so-called “warhawk” hairstyle, Dan “The Handler” Hornbuckle is hoping to garner as much attention as possible as he heads into Sengoku 9, where he will face MMA veteran Akihiro Gono.
August 2 will mark the second time that Hornbuckle has traveled to the land of the Rising Sun to fight. Like most fighters who have made the journey, Hornbuckle has only positive things to say about the experience.
“Up until recently, fans in the United States didn’t really revere fighters as Samurai warriors, but that’s how they view you in Japan. While we’re watching Sunday afternoon football in America, they’re watching Sunday afternoon fighting,” says Hornbuckle with a chuckle. And according to “The Handler,” it is precisely this type of admiration that makes the sacrifices of being a fighter more worthwhile. “When you’re walking the streets, it’s a very cool feeling when you have people coming up to you with smiles saying, ‘Oh, Sengoku-san! Sengoku-san!’ and wanting pictures,” he says.
Boasting a record of 17-2 and battling his second “big name” opponent in as many fights in Sengoku, Hornbuckle is on the verge of receiving the same treatment in the streets of America. “Where I would hope to eventually end up is the UFC, because that’s where the most elite fighters are,” says Hornbuckle. “I know I have a few fights left before I can just go romping around into that top level, but I feel like I’m taking all the right steps. Everybody needs experience and that’s why I’m not discounting where I am right now in Sengoku. There are many good fighters in Japan, including Gono, who just got out of the UFC. My experience with him will be used as a measuring stick of where I stand, and I’ll make adjustments accordingly.”
But until then, this Sengoku-san will enjoy his time in Japan. “When two men enter a ring and they mix all martial arts together and compete, that’s very pure,” says Hornbuckle. “I wanna prove to myself that MMA is born into me and I want to help the sport grow and be remembered as one of those foundational pillars that helps bring MMA to that next level.”