On November 13, 2015, a series of coordinated attacks were carried out by terrorists in Paris, France. Consisting of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and hostage-taking, the terrorists — who later identified themselves as the Islamic State (ISIS) — the assault happened at the Stade de France, Rue Bichat and Rue Alibat, Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, Rue de Charonne, and Boulevard Voltaire. However, the deadliest attack was a mass shooting at Bataclan Theater in which 129 people lost their lives. Summarized, it was France’s “Day in Infamy,” harrowing and somber like the day two hijacked airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City.
Within the terrorist attacks’ aftermath, one debilitating issue some people are seeing is growing Islamophobia. Take note that Islamophobia isn’t just a fear of Islam, but an anti-Muslim sentiment for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam and Muslims. This is actually hitting many people, Muslim or not, really close to home, and apparently, one of those people is Bellator MMA fighter Hisaki Kato.
About 100 meters from the Bataclan Theater is the NBF Mixed Martial Arts Gym. According to Bleacher Report, this is the gym where Hisaki Kato trains. During the time of the shooting, Kato was not at the gym but his coach, Fabien Hillairet, was. First, Hillairet opened the doors to his gym to give terrified Parisians a place of refuge. As the shooting continued however, he decided to close the doors and kept them close, waiting out the massacre.
As mentioned earlier, Hisaki Kato was not in the gym. Instead, he was on his way to Thackerville, Oklahoma, to prepare facing Melvin Manhoef in the main event at Bellator 146: Kato vs. Manhoef on Friday, November 20, 2015. When Kato found out about the shooting, he was in constant communication with his coach and friends as he learned more about the horrific situation.
“They were just waiting. There was heavy shooting. Everybody was running away. People were looking for places to hide.”
Needless to say, the attitude towards Muslims and Islam was already faulty after the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier this year. With the recent terrorist attacks, people are now frightened that they too will become targets. Hisaki Kato and his friends are able to relate to the situation more so than ever. Also, Kato believes that with the fear of becoming a target, Muslims are now going to be generally grouped as untrustworthy and potential terrorists. This is saddening for Kato because he has friends who are Muslim.
“I have a lot of Muslim friends. It’s a shame for them. All of this just because a few crazy guys. They are French people and just living a regular life. A lot of them are scared of being misjudged by other people. They are not comfortable being Muslim anymore because of a few crazy fanatics.”
Hisaki Kato plans to return back home to Paris after he finishes his main event fight at Bellator 146: Kato vs. Manhoef. Still, the recent attacks are, as mentioned earlier, hitting a little too close to home. According to Billings Gazette, the current situation is similar to the time when he was up in New York City when the Charlie Hebdo attack happened. It was a moment of his life when he felt truly helpless, not knowing if his friends or family were safe. It was a time he wasn’t thinking about his upcoming fight any more. Kato does claim he is thankful he could still do his fight, but that was not his first feeling. This is probably the same feeling Kato was feeling when he heard the horrific news.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) November 19, 2015
Hisaki Kato will be fighting Melvin Manhoef in the main event of Bellator 146: Kato vs. Manhoef. It will take place on November 20, 2015 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The venue will air on Spike TV at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST. Now that he knows his friends and family are okay, Kato can try to concentrate on the upcoming fight.
[Photo by Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images]