Astra Notebook: Promotion’s Future Still Undecided

By Tony Loiseleur Apr 27, 2010
TOKYO -- Addressing MMA fans for the last time Sunday evening, the newly retired Hidehiko Yoshida made an interesting request of top pupil Kazuhiro Nakamura: that Nakamura essentially lead Astra forward as its new star. The implication was that Astra -- previously announced as a one-time event meant to give Yoshida a fond send-off into retirement -- would in fact become a new ongoing promotion in Japan.

However, in the post-event question and answer session, Yoshida’s manager and J-Rock president Takahiro Kokuho soon tempered these expectations.

“I haven’t given it any thought yet,” said Kokuho. “To be honest, it’s been quite difficult even bringing today’s event together. Three days before, I was still consulting on who should make appearances at the event, two days earlier we were still making changes on the production side, and all the way up until showtime, things were looking very last minute and shaky. In focusing on this event, I haven’t even had the time to think about a ‘next event.’”

Still, Kokuho asserted that he and the J-Rock staff would continue to support Yoshida and his Yoshida Dojo, particularly as the newly retired fighter makes his return to the judo world and his remaining stable continue their MMA careers.

Yoshida Returning to Judo

Owing to the strict regulations of the All Japan Judo Federation, no judo athlete is allowed to receive compensation for competition. With Yoshida now retired from professional prizefighting and prohibitions on athletes returning to judo loosening, he will be allowed to return as a competitor and/or instructor after a brief probationary period.

“Until now, it used to be that if a judo athlete transfers to professional sports, they could not return to judo. It’s slowly changed from being impossible to the point that recently, judo athletes can return to judo in about one year’s time,” said Yoshida. “Being a professional athlete is about having freedom of choice in your job selection. I’d like to work on lowering the barriers (like in judo) one at a time in order to accommodate that.”

As such, Yoshida is in the unique position of once again bridging the two realms of judo and professional prizefighting -- this time acting on behalf of professional athletics as an emissary to the judo world.

“I feel good. It’s all done, all finished. I have no regrets,” said a smiling Yoshida, after his unanimous decision loss to his student Nakamura. “The fight felt like it was really long. It was different from all my previous fights, but I enjoyed it.”

Teacher, Student Reflect on Bout

Apparently still wrestling with the mixed emotions that plagued him before the fight, Yoshida’s final opponent and student, Nakamura, admitted that he was happy with the outcome of the bout, particularly given their brief toe-to-toe exchange in the third round.

“In all of my fights, I never seem to push myself to the limit like I should. But, when Yoshida called me out (in the third round), he helped to pull me out there and fight my hardest. I think it looked good. I thought we were great out there, just going for it,” said Nakamura.

“I kind of felt as if he wasn’t coming toward me at first, but his punches really hurt. There were several times where Nakamura had me, but he didn’t try and finish me, so I decided to take off my gi top and just fight,” said Yoshida.

While Yoshida’s future puts him back in the Japanese judo world, Nakamura assumes the title of Yoshida Dojo’s next marquee fighter. As such, he stated his intent to stay with MMA for perpetuity, and requested Yoshida’s continued support of his fighting career.

“Although Yoshida is returning to judo, I want to fight in MMA until the day I die,” he said. “I’m relieved that he’s returning to judo however, and hope that he’ll continue to lend me his strength in the future.”

“Yoshida’s (and Nakamura’s) fight was moving. It was strange for me to watch because I’ve shared meals with these guys, I’ve fought alongside them, and I’ve shared a lot of experiences together with them,” said stablemate Michihiro Omigawa.

Omigawa Sets Sights on WEC

Omigawa defeated WEC and Dream veteran Micah Miller by unanimous decision and remains one of Yoshida Dojo’s notable roster staying behind in the MMA realm. Omigawa said that he only has eyes for the WEC and the fighters that compete there.

“I want to fight in the same ring as the strongest in the world. Right now in America’s WEC, Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber are fighting, right? Chan Sung Jung also just had a great fight there, so it’s there that I must fight as well. I need to clash with the strongest in the world,” he said.
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