Not So Slick: Akiyama-Sakuraba Ruled No Contest

By Jordan Breen Jan 11, 2007
Seeking to bring resolution to the controversy that has embroiled mixed martial arts in the early days of 2007, K-1 and HERO'S parent company Fight Entertainment Group has announced that Dec. 31's bout between Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) and Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures) will be ruled a No Contest.

MMA welcomed the New Year with intense controversy, as Akiyama defeated the iconic Sakuraba in the main event of K-1's Premium 2006 Dynamite!! However, contention raged immediately after the bout, from every angle imaginable.

Sakuraba was seen to have repeatedly yelled to Yoshinori Umeki that Akiyama was excessively slippery, as Akiyama defended repeated takedown attempts from "The Gracie Hunter.”

Along with a visibly upset Sakuraba's in-ring complaints going ignored, controversy also stemmed from whether or not the ground and pound stoppage just over half way through the first round was a just one.

Furthermore, as debate raged between mixed martial arts fans in the aftermath of the bout, it was also revealed largely through the online community that Akiyama's gloves appeared to differ from those worn by other MMA competitors on the Dynamite!! card. While the standards gloves for use in HERO'S bouts are made by Isami, the typical Isami logo was not present on the pair of gloves worn by Akiyama, arousing more argument over whether or not the encounter between Akiyama and Sakuraba was a fair one.

The event has largely polarized the mixed martial arts community, especially in Japan. On top of the bout's disputed issues, Sakuraba's legendary stature in the sport and Akiyama's ethnicity as a Korean have aroused the passion of many Sakuraba fans, while stirring anti-Korean sentiments for a number of Japanese fans.

Thursday in Tokyo, FEG president Sadaharu Tanigawa stated that his company recognized Sakuraba’s formal protest, and following their investigation of the matter resolved to overturn the result of the bout.

Tanigawa said that both the matter concerning Akiyama's gloves and the question of whether or not Akiyama used any lubricants on his body were investigated. Akiyama's gloves were found to in fact be regulation issue, however, the Isami logo had simply fallen off of the gloves and had gone unnoticed by the inspecting official, resulting in the confusion.

In regards to whether Akiyama had used any lubricants or oils on his body before entering the ring, the inquiry revealed that while Akiyama had not intentionally applied any substances such as Vaseline or Thai oil, he had applied a skin moisturizer beforehand, for cosmetic purposes.

Stating simply that he had dry skin, a noticeably upset Akiyama told the media that while he understood substances such as petroleum jellies and Thai oils were prohibited, he thought that his use of a commercial skin cream was allowed. Akiyama said he accepts that he made a mistake, and offered a public apology to Sakuraba while also stating that he would like to face him again.

The HERO'S executive committee determined that Akiyama's act was one of negligence, not malice. In addition to the bout being ruled a No Contest, Akiyama's purse money will be withheld. Furthermore, while referee Yoshinori Umeki's judgment was deemed to be just and professional in stopping the bout, the sub-referee who did not acknowledge Sakuraba's shouts of appeal in the ring will forfeit half of his guarantee from the promoter, while the official responsible for glove and body checks will face the same financial forfeit, in addition to a six-month suspension from duty.
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