Yoshihiro Akiyama file photo: Taro Irei | Sherdog.com
ALBUQUERQUE -- As a spirited sparring session involving the likes of Donald Cerrone, Melvin Guillard and Leonard Garcia wound down at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts on Thursday morning, an interested observer from across the ocean stood cageside, ready to add his name to the ever-growing roster of fighters who travel to train in New Mexico.
On Wednesday, Jackson’s general manager Ricky Kottenstette had confirmed via text message that Japanese fighter Yoshihiro Akiyama would begin training under Greg Jackson in preparation for his upcoming bout with Michael Bisping at the main event of UFC 120 on Oct. 16 in London.
“I was contacted by one of his representatives, and he said that (Akiyama) was looking to join a team. I went ahead and set it up, and he’s looking forward to working with (standup coach) Mr. (Mike) Winkeljohn and Greg for this camp,” Kottenstette said.
On Thursday, the former K-1 and Dream veteran was at the school for the first time, watching a workout and then meeting with Kottenstette and Jackson in the trainer’s office. There the fighter and coach began the preliminary stages of game-planning for Bisping, as well as setting up a schedule to begin working with both Jackson and Winkeljohn.
Jackson, impressed with both the demeanor and repertoire of his newest pupil, said that Akiyama is a welcome addition to his camp.
“His fluidity is what I enjoy, the way he transitions from one thing to the next. And his attitude: he likes to fight,” he said. “It just brings a skillset to the table, judo and his particular style. Another good guy for the team: sparring and he’ll bring in his own ideas.”
The 35-year-old middleweight is coming off a loss to Chris Leben at UFC 116 in July, where he was likely on his way to earning a decision victory before “The Crippler” caught him with a triangle choke at 4:40 of the third round. Akiyama’s fighting debut in the U.S. came at UFC 100 in a split decision triumph over Alan Belcher in July 2009.
The ethnic Korean fighter owns notable wins over Dennis Kang and Melvin Manhoef during his pro career. His loss to Leben was his first defeat since 2005, when he suffered a knockout via knees to Jerome LeBanner at K-1 Hero’s 1. Seven of his 13 career victories have come by submission.
Kottenstette could not confirm whether the move to Jackson’s will be a permanent one.
“I don’t know his intentions long term. He’s down here to do a camp, and we’re happy to have him,” he said.
UFC 120 takes place at the O2 Arena on October 16 and will air on Spike TV.