'Kid' Back to K-1

By Jordan Breen Jun 18, 2009
K-1 MAX's Final 8 offering now has an even more intense MMA flavor.

Parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group announced Thursday that two more MMA competitors would see K-1 rules action at the MAX grand prix quarterfinal event July 13 at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan. Japanese superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto will return to K-1 action for the first time in over four years as he takes on South Korea's Jae Hee Cheon. Yamamoto's pupil, Atsushi Yamamoto, will make his K-1 rules debut against former Japanese national boxing champ Kazuhisa Wantanabe.

The presence of the Krazy Bee pair make for a trio of MMA fighters on the bill, as the card will also feature lightweight stalwart Tatsuya Kawajiri challenging two-time MAX GP champion Masato under K-1 rules.

Kid Yamamoto was upset by fast-rising prospect Joe Warren in the quarterfinals of the Dream featherweight grand prix on May 26, his first loss in MMA in over seven years. The 32-year-old Japanese superstar holds a 1-2 mark under K-1 rules. Though he gained acclaim for fighting Masato to a decision -- and even knocking him down once -- on New Year's Eve 2004, Yamamoto's last K-1 outing ended brutally as he was starched by a right hand from Mike Zambidis in May 2005.

Cheon, 23, claims a kickboxing record of 20-4, but was dispatched in the third round of his only K-1 bout by Najmeddin Al-Hadad in July 2007.

The 28-year-old Atsushi Yamamoto, of no relation to Norifumi, hasn't fought since March, when he dropped a hotly contested split decision to Masakazu Imanari in the opening round of Dream's featherweight grand prix. It will be the first kickboxing bout of any kind for Yamamoto, a former standout freestyle wrestler at Yamanashi Gakuin University, like his mentor "Kid."

Wantanabe, one of Japanese boxing's foremost firebrands, unexpectedly announced his retirement from the boxing ring in February 2008. The former Japanese national 126-pound champion made his K-1 debut in February, losing a hard-fought unanimous verdict to Daisuke Uematsu.
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