Koubousen Companion: News and Notes from Japan

Koubousen Companion

By Jordan Breen Mar 6, 2007
This week, a great cross section of news in the Japanese MMA scene comes forth from across the Pacific. Everything from love and marriage to elbow dislocation and, of course, actual fights are par for the course. We bring a series of quick hits from all over, including a deeper look at what's next for a host of fighter, and promotions such as Smackgirl, CAGE FORCE and PRIDE.

Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures)'s indefinite suspension from HERO'S isn't giving him much ability to get in the ring, so rather than being a fighter, Akiyama has seemingly chose to be a lover, linking up with one of Japan's foremost models. Meanwhile, MMA pioneer Akira Maeda (Pictures) started a love affair with true combat nearly two decades ago, but now the HERO'S exec has revealed his love of a different sort, announcing that he's gotten hitched.

For "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures), heartbreak was in order this past January, when his elbow injury at the Emperor's Cup looked like it would derail his dreams of an Olympic berth. However, incredibly the bad boy superstar is three months ahead of schedule, and says he's fully recovered and ready to resume his dream of the mats in Beijing next year.

For Hiromitsu Miura (Pictures), the mats of the United States were always a goal. Now, the little known HERO'S veteran will get the most high profile bout of his career, as he heads to Las Vegas later this month to face a UFC veteran and try to leave his mark on the minds of American fans. And on the topic of fandom, Muay Thai ace BigBen Kesagym has two big fans in the Japanese MMA community, and they aren't quite who you'd expect to see chumming with a Rajadamnern king.

Female superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures) is set for action this weekend, and this time it's stateside. However, in addition to her talent, Fujii is bringing her familiar matchmaking woes to Minnesota. Meanwhile, Smackgirl isn't without some promotional curiosities of its own. While the all-female promotion put together a great card with championship implications for this Sunday in Shinjuku, is Smackgirl giving Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) an easy side, at the expense of Lisa Ward (Pictures)?

Two weeks ago, DEEP lit up a packed house at Korakuen Hall with a spectacular card that witnessed two new champions, and a bevy of upsets, and come April, they'll be at it again.

After a surprisingly large success in Japan's most rural prefecture of Tottori, Greatest Common Multiple will bring CAGE FORCE back to the trendy trappings of Tokyo's Differ Ariake. Fans know that the M.O. for CAGE FORCE this year is two international tournaments, with Octagon aspirations up for grabs. Come March 17, GCM will do it big in what may be their most noteworthy event to date.

Finally, while things have been going less than swimmingly in the political realm for Dream Stage Entertainment, the show must go on. With their third Vegas show now officially stamped out, their next two shows back in Japan will be of certain importance. What's in store for April when PRIDE returns to the Saitama Super Arena, and how will this year's Lightweight Grand Prix shape up come this May?

Models love a man who moisturizes

Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) has finally gotten some positive press.

While the early weeks of 2007 were none too kind to the HERO'S 2006 187-pound tournament champion, as he plummeted from grace as a result of the greasing scandal surrounding his fight with Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures). It got worse when K-1 and HERO'S parent company Fight Entertainment Group piled some more on Akiyama, leveling him with an indefinite suspension from competition only a week after they invalidated his win over Sakuraba and withheld his purse money.

So, what's the good news for Akiyama? Well, no, he won't be getting back into the ring any time in the immediate future, but the former standout judoka has now been romantically linked to Japanese model SHIHO whom he met back in mid-January.

The 27-year-old SHIHO, born Yano Shiho, is one of Japan's foremost models, and regularly graces the covers of Japanese fashion magazines, in addition to having her own radio show on Tokyo FM.

SHIHO's spokespeople have confirmed the relationship to the Japanese media, but have quickly diffused questions of marriage, stating that she and Akiyama have just become acquainted.

The King of RINGS exchanges rings

And, on the topic of marriage, congratulations are in order for Akira Maeda (Pictures), who has just revealed his marriage, after recently returning from his honeymoon.

Maeda revealed earlier this week that he was absent through most of February due to honeymooning after being married late last year. Maeda said that he and his new wife, who he has been friends with for 15 years, visited both Kyoto, as well as the Ise Shrine, the most holy site of the Shinto religion.

The 47-year-old Maeda also announced that he and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child in May, and that they prayed for an uncomplicated birth when they saw the Ise Shrine.

Maeda is now, of course, best known as an executive for Fight Entertainment Group's HERO'S promotion, but he has long been a true pioneer in mixed martial arts, being one of the first Japanese pro-wrestlers to venture into the world of true fightsport, as well as being the founder of the RINGS Fighting Network.

Extraordinary elbow recovery revives Olympic dream for "KID"

In terms of extraordinary natural gifts, perhaps there's no one quite in the same league as "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures). If you're cataloguing his God-given abilities, somewhere between punching power and astonishing strength, make sure to add in his recovery time.

After suffering a serious elbow dislocation at the Emperor's Cup wrestling championships last month, examining doctors tagged Yamamoto's right elbow with an estimated complete recovery time of three to four months, despite not requiring surgery. However, with Yamamoto needing to be primed and prepared to hit the mats again for the Meiji Nyugyo Cup in June, Yamamoto's Olympic dream seemed to be in serious peril, despite his insistence that he would be ready and able to compete.

However, just a month after the injury, Yamamoto has stated that he has fully recovered and resumed training, after taking a few weeks to vacation abroad in Hawaii and Arizona, where Yamamoto attended high school and won three state wrestling championships.

This development gives Yamamoto a better, albeit still fairly minuscule chance to earn a berth in the 2008 Beijing Games. By virtue of his opening round win at the Emperor's Cup, Yamamoto earned the right to compete at the Meiji Nyugyo Cup, the All Japan selections championship, in June. If Yamamoto wins the 132-pound freestyle division at the Meiji Nyugyo Cup he will face Emperor's Cup champion Kenichi Yumoto in a playoff match, with the winner representing Japan at the World Championships in Azerbaijan this September. "KID" would then have to place in the top eight at the World Championships, and win the 2008 Emperor's Cup to assure a Beijing Games bid.

Miura to meet Riggs in American entrance

With Zuffa having recently brought forth a strong crop of Japanese talent to the UFC's Octagon, including the likes of Yushin Okami (Pictures), Keita Nakamura (Pictures), Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures) and Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures), Zuffa's other brand is now about to add some Japanese talent to its roster.

The second Zuffa-promoted WEC card, scheduled for March 24 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, will feature a 185-pound contest between UFC veteran Joe Riggs (Pictures), and Japanese competitor Hiromitsu Miura (Pictures). It will be by far the most high profile fight for the 26-year-old Fukuoka native, who went 3-0 in 2006, including a win over PRIDE veteran Kazuki Okubo (Pictures).

A former All Japan sambo champion in 2004, Miura also diversified his combat sport portfolio last year. In between MMA bouts, Miura competed in kickboxing promotion R.I.S.E., where he notched a 2-1 record, including a semifinal finish in the R.I.S.E. Mighty Eighty tournament before losing to K-1 veteran and eventual tournament champion Magnum Sakai.

After representing Pancrase-affiliate MEGATON-Tokin and more recently SAMURAI SWORD, Miura has spent the last few months in Jupiter, Florida, training out of The Armory with Hermes Franca (Pictures) and Kurt Pellegrino (Pictures), which led to him getting the opportunity to fight in the WEC.

Aoki and Imanari big on BigBen

And, speaking of MMA competitors appearing in striking venues.

Feb. 25 at Korakuen Hall, Shootboxing promoted a fight card carrying the theme of Shootboxing vs. Rajadamnern, pitting top Shootboxing competitors against Muay Thai practitioners from Thailand's famous Rajadamnern Stadium. In the evening's finale, World Muay Thai Council and Rajadamnern Stadium 154-pound champion BigBen Kesagym leveled 2006 S-Cup tournament champion Kenichi Ogata with a right hook in the second round, to score an impressive knockout victory.

So, why the Shootboxing and Muay Thai discussion?

Following his win, BigBen was joined in the ring by none other than Shooto world champion Shinya Aoki (Pictures) as well as DEEP and Cage Rage champion Masakazu Imanari (Pictures), who offered their congratulations to the Rajadamnern king and took post-fight pictures with he and the rest of his team.

Aoki and Imanari had previously befriended the Thai champion on a previous trip to Japan, when BigBen stopped in to train with another former Rajadamnern Stadium champion, Muangfahlek Kiatwichkien (Pictures). Muangfahlek, who has competed under MMA rules in DEEP, then introduced BigBen to the "Tobikan Judan" and the "Ashikan Judan."

"Mega Megu" in for another match-up misstep in Minnesota?

While not her first MMA performance in the United States, having competed in HOOKnSHOOT in Evansville, Indiana in 2004, female Japanese superstar Megumi Fujii (Pictures) will head to America again to compete on March 10, as part of an all-female card in Minnesota.

Perhaps none too surprisingly, Fujii's matchmaking woes have continued even with her competition abroad. Whenever Fujii competes, it is a taxing process for promoters to secure opponents for her. The most outstanding and accomplished female grappler in all of Japan, and considered perhaps the most talented female fighter in the world, fight promoters have struggled to secure opponents who are both willing and suitable to face "Mega Megu."

This time around, Fujii will meet a virtual unknown in Minnesotan Cody Welchlin, a complete unknown in the spectrum of female MMA. The match-up is dubiously reminiscent of Fujii's previous bouts with Nadia van der Wel (Pictures), who was only 17-years-old at the time of their fight; a completely unknown South Korean in Dah Le Chon; and most recently, woefully outmatched Australian kickboxer Serin Murray, who wound up in an ambulance after finding herself on the business end of a toehold.
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