The Man with Two Souls

Odd Compliment

By Tony Loiseleur May 13, 2009
Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com

Akiyama is all business.
Akiyama will have little time to acclimate to Octagon novelties, as he will debut against Belcher (14-5), a fast-paced, confident Duke Roufus protégé. In an interview with MMAWeekly.com, Belcher said he wanted to welcome Akiyama to the UFC with a knockout.

“I believe he’s a good fighter with great striking skills. He’s probably very confident, which is likely why he said that,” Akiyama says. “While there may be a possibility that he can knock me out -- this is MMA, after all -- nobody knows beforehand what will really happen.”

In the same interview, Belcher also claimed he believed he would be bigger than Akiyama, since the K-1 veteran would have to “get off all that damn juice.” Surprisingly, Akiyama’s reaction to the accusation of steroid use was one of genuine mirth and gratitude.

“To be completely honest, for him to say that I’m doping actually makes me pretty happy,” Akiyama says, having taken several moments to collect his thoughts and recover from laughing. “As far back as two or three years ago, I’ve had friends in training ask me the same thing. I was never offended since I’ve never tried steroids, so when they asked if I did, I felt like it was because they thought my abilities and performances were too high. In a way, it feels like Belcher is showing me respect as a fighter, and I find it very flattering. If I had to say something in response, it’d be, ‘Thank you for your compliments and respect.’”

While he does not overlook Belcher, Akiyama has his sights set on an eventual title shot during his six-fight contract in the UFC.

“If I have a chance, I’d like to fight for the title,” he says. “It might not happen so easily, but, of course, it’s a goal. As for who I’d like to fight in the future, I recently heard that Wanderlei Silva dropped down to 185. I think in Japan and Korea that would be a big fight that fans would be excited to see, and it would likely help the UFC to become a little more popular here.”

Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com

Akiyama likes what he sees.
Fashion Trendsetter

Aside from being an Asian pop star, master of style and solid middleweight talent, Akiyama also serves as an Internet meme to the online MMA community.

He was endearingly dubbed “Sexyama,” and Akiyama fandom has given rise to forum threads thousands of posts long, celebrating not only his competence as a top 185-pound fighter but his superb fashion sense. Naturally, the news comes as a surprise to Akiyama.

“It’s really my first time hearing about this,” Akiyama says. “Personally, it makes me happy that people are complimenting me like this, and I think it means that I’m becoming well-known and respected by the fans abroad. I think that regardless of whether it’s men or women saying so, to be called sexy by anyone is high praise.”

Those on the “Sexyama” bandwagon see Akiyama as the pinnacle of men’s fashion in the MMA industry. He began cultivating that trait at a young age.

“When I was a child, I learned that it was important for people to look their best,” he says. “Because I’m in the spotlight, in and out of the ring, it’s important that I put pressure on myself to be presentable. I want young people to look up to me and say, ‘He’s cool and has a good sense of style. I’d like to be like him.’ Of course, ability and skill are also crucial, but appearances really do matter.”

Belying the sharp images Akiyama cuts in various fashion magazines, his sense of style does not revolve around any particular designer or price range, as one might think. The secret lies not in name brands but simply in what he feels looks good.

“Whether it’s expensive or by a particular designer doesn’t really matter to me,” Akiyama says. “I like clothes, expensive or inexpensive. If it looks good, that’s what is most important. I often look at magazines, and while I don’t just lift fashions from them, I adopt and adapt according to my sense of color and style.”
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