Sengoku Signs Another Top-Notch Judoka

By Jordan Breen Jul 7, 2009
Put another Olympic judo medalist on the Sengoku roster.

Hot on the heels of inking Japanese MMA golden child Satoshi Ishii last month, Sengoku parent company World Victory Road formally announced the signing of 2004 Athens Games judo silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi on Tuesday.

A native of Oma, Aomori -- a town that marks the most northern point on the island of Honshu -- the 27-year-old Izumi won gold at the World University Games in 2003 and immediately went on to international success in the 198-pound category. Izumi took silver in his division at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and then won the 2005 judo world championships in Cairo the following year. After taking gold in the 2008 Asian championships, Izumi was considered a contender for the gold in Beijing last August, but was defeated via ippon by Andrei Kazusenok of Belarus in the second round.

The signing does not come as much of a surprise. It was well known that Izumi planned to leave the world of judo for MMA, and his services were sought by both WVR and Dream and K-1 parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group over the last several months.

Izumi joins Sengoku's list of elite judokas, including former gold medalists Hidehiko Yoshida, Pawel Nastula, Makoto Takimoto and recent prized signing Satoshi Ishii. More interestingly, WVR has also signed Georgian gold medal judoka Zurab Zviadauri, though he has yet to embark on his MMA career. It was Zviadauri who defeated Izumi in Athens in the 198-pound judo final, forcing Izumi to settle for silver.

No timeline has yet been given for the debut of Izumi, who will compete as a light heavyweight.

"Izumi has told me he's been training MMA for about one month. When will he debut in Sengoku? We still haven't come to a decision, yet," said WVR director Takahiro Kokuho. "When I spoke to him about it before, however, he did tell me he'd like to compete as soon as possible."

Kokuho would not disclose either the length of the contact or the amount of fights over its tenure.

Also, WVR firmed up another fight for its Aug. 2 "Ninth Battle" card at Saitama Super Arena, which will conclude the Sengoku featherweight grand prix. In the 143-pound tournament's reserve bout, once-beaten South Korean Chan Sung Jung will take on former KOTC titlist Matt Jaggers.

After submitting Shintaro Ishiwatari in a wild slugfest in the first round of Sengoku's featherweight tournament in March, the 22-year-old Jung lost a highly controversial unanimous verdict to Masanori Kanehara in May's quarterfinals. Jaggers, 24, was choked out by semifinalist Marlon Sandro in the first round of the tournament in March, but rebounded with a first-round submission over Peter Dominguez under the Bellator banner in May.
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